By Dominique Weldon
Indianapolis-based artist, Walter Lobyn Hamilton, utilizes his music expertise in his latest exhibit, innovating the defintion of an artist.
When it comes to art, many typically think of famous artists and their works from the past. For example, many may recall the Mona Lisa, The Starry Night, and A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte or even the works of Michelangelo, Monet, and Frida Kahlo. These artists and creations, whether due to use of color, composition, and subject, have stood the test of time. However, there’s more to the world of art than works from previous centuries. In fact, there are fantastic living artists who not only create breathtaking pieces, but are challenging our limited definition of art. One such artist is Walter Lobyn Hamilton. His latest vinyl art exhibit, What I Have You Have, will remind you of the endless possibilities that art has to offer.
Of course, vinyl isn’t typically associated art but instead with music. That’s because in the 1900s, long before digital streaming services, CDs, and cassettes, vinyl was how many individuals enjoyed recorded songs. However, current technology has caused both vinyl and record players to become obsolete, making vinyl’s popularity fade near the turn of the twenty-first century. Despite vinyl being considered dated by some, it has since the mid-2000s received renewed interest from music-listeners. Most people without a strong interest in music, however, do not pay attention to these vinyls, but luckily Hamilton sees potential where many do not.
As for Hamilton, he is an Indianapolis-based artist. Not only is he a self-taught artist, but he’s an experienced DJ as well, exposing him to music and vinyls which have clearly weaved its way into his artwork. His exhibit What I Have You Have is located at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, and opened in August 2023. Its permanent collection includes classic American and European works such as Jimson Weed by Georgia O’Keeffe, American Hotel by Edward Hopper, and Self-Portrait Rembrandt. In recent years, the museum has started to feature contemporary artists from across the globe, such as Cracking Art, Yayoi Kusama, and Benjamin B. Green-Field. Hamilton’s work is a perfect addition to the museum’s rotating collection.
One of the first things I noted about What I Have You Have was the message placed along the wall at the exhibit’s entrance, asking viewers to refrain from using their cell phone in the gallery so they can give the work their full, undivided attention. Once inside, and without the distraction of a cellphone, viewers are met by the breathtaking vinyl art. Hamilton’s exhibit features six wall-sized flags created from vinyl records, album covers, record players, and wood, materials rarely associated with flag creation. The hundreds of vinyl records comprise these pieces are perfectly cut and layered into the body of the flag. The large and all-encompassing size of these flags overtakes the viewer’s vision and captures their full attention.
One of the most engaging aspects of Hamilton’s exhibit that viewers will immediately place themselves in conversation with the art. As the exhibit features a wide array of music genres, guests will likely se their music tastes represented in the work. Look to Hamilton’s piece The Hip Hop Joint, for example, which contains records from some of the most influential hip hop and rap artists in history, including Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A., MC Lyte, and more. The piece titled Rock and Roll: I Wonder What Happened to the Girl Who Said Listened to White Music displays prominent rock arts, such as ACDC, Fleetwood Mac, and Bon Jovi. The familiar vinyl art will surely prompt viewers to reminisce about the first time they listened to these albums, evoking nostalgia. By witnessing vinyl art, Hamilton brilliantly makes the past tangible and alive for all who view his work.
Furthermore, not only will viewers encounter many familiar albums, but guests can also discover new albums alongside old favorites. In fact, Hamilton encourages viewers to open themselves up to possibilities unfamiliar music provides, for he and Kyle Long, a music historian, created an accompanying playlist, also named What I Have You Have:
The playlist has over a thousand songs, ensuring a new favourite for every listener. Through both the art itself and the playlist, Hamilton provides viewers the possibility to create life-long memories through his work, even after they leave the exhibit.
In the end, Walter Lobyn Hamilton has done what few artists can: he has expanded the definition of art and reminds us the impossible is a tangible reality. Through musical materials and memories, Hamilton reminds us that art shouldn’t be limited to canvas, ink, or paint and that it can be created with materials close to our hearts, which is nothing short of sublime.
About the Writer:
Dominique Weldon is a Black biracial writer based in Indiana, IN. She is a first-generation college graduate of the University of Iowa and received her MFA in Fiction from Butler University. Her work appears in Lover’s Eye Press and DarkWinter Literary Magazine. Currently, she reads fiction for Split Lip Magazine and writes for Erato Magazine. Find her online at www.dominiquekweldon.com