During August and September, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is hosting Chicago-based artist LaMont Hamilton through the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF) program. Hamilton works primarily in portraiture photography, routinely seeking out subjects for non-commissioned portraits. Through the years Hamilton has captured faces of prominent artists of color (75 Portraits), various communities (Portraits with the Public), local teens (Chicago Teen Portrait Project), and more. In addition to his photographic work, Hamilton also uses appropriation or repurposing of archival images to interrogate the construction of certain ideologies and identities via the photographic image.
As one of fifteen SARF recipients for 2014, Hamilton is continuing work on Five on the Black Hand Side, exploring the history, significance, and aesthetics of the handshake “the dap” and other forms of tactile communication among African Americans. He began this project in 2012 with a series of oral interviews, and it has grown into a comprehensive study of the dap and its place in the trajectory of black performativity. Hamilton is working with CFCH curator Diana N’Diaye and National Museum of African American History and Culture curator Tuliza Fleming, and his research is taking him to archival collections across the Smithsonian as well as into the African American community of Washington, D.C.
The SARF program was established in 2007 as a platform for accomplished visual artists to conceptualize and conduct research for existing projects, allowing creative collaboration across all Smithsonian museums and research centers. Fellows may be nominated before applying, and then are awarded a living stipend and research allowance if needed; fellowships last one to two months, which can be divided into multiple visits over the course of a year. See the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships & Internships website for more information.