Mary Oestereicher Hamill

regardregard: project china, chinatown

Mary Oestereicher Hamill

Photograph of Chinatown NY projection of video from Beijing hutong collaborative project,
16 x 20 inches
Courtesy of the Artist

February 15, 2009 — May 17, 2009

Opening Reception Saturday, March 7, 6 - 8 pm
Gallery Talk Sunday, April 5, 1 pm

About the Artist

Mary Oestereicher Hamill is perhaps best known for her award-winning interactive exhibition “regardisregard” based on extensive collaboration with the homeless and shown at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston. Her installation, sculpture, and video have been shown at the Rose Art Museum, the Carpenter Center at Harvard University, the Massachusetts State House, North American Sculpture Exhibition, Boston City Hall, Tufts University, Emory University, Stanford University, Radcliffe Institute, Longy School of Music, as well as in Vietnam and China.  Hamill turned to making visual art as a step beyond her extensive career in educational reform, work that led both to two national awards and to a set of US legislation. Besides earning a BA from the University of Michigan, an M.Phil.  from the University of Sussex in England, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Hamill holds a Diploma from the Museum School (MFA). Her recent art awards include Traveling Scholar, as well as residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and at the Djerassi Program in California.  Hamill is Resident Scholar/Artist at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center; there she is currently working on both a multimedia piece on rural Vietnam and on the next phase of the China project.


About the Exhibit

“ regardregard: a project in China and Chinatown”

This dynamic body of work is built over time in layers and is distinguished by exceptionally strong community interaction—a theme of the piece.  The artist’s interest is in the texture of the public lives of Chinese people in traditional neighborhoods—both those who are aging in place in ancient Beijing (the hutong) and also those who dwell now in New York City’s Chinatown.  In “regardregard” time and place are explored through a range of modalities, visual and auditory, still and moving, printed and projected.

In Phase One, in the summer of 2008, Hamill loaned her cameras to older residents in Beijing’s crowded ancient alleyways for them to take pictures of one another and of their lives on the streets. Thanks to the enthusiasm of the director of the Community Culture Center in Yan Yue hutong, the resultant photographs became the occasion and the focus for a festive exhibition there with singing, dancing, and sport.

Phase Two, in November 2008, addressed the immigrants on the streets of New York’s Chinatown. Images of the old homeland rose up in the context of the new as the artist projected documentary video footage from the Beijing phase onto a range of meaningful surfaces. For example, intriguing video footage of an older hutong merchant sitting in front of her bread shop is projected onto the oranges of a Chinatown vendor’s corner fruit stand; and a classical Beijing artist’s black ink drawings of birds are projected onto the corrugated façade of New York’s original tenement building.

This sensitive, layered artwork shows mature people from a culture based on thousands of years of reverence for family and neighbors. Today, when globalization and urban development impel a modification of such traditional ways of life, Hamill has had the privilege of making art with the Chinese people both in China and in the US. As many images in this two-city exhibition reveal, the ongoing traditions of lively communal interaction continue to be cherished.

The involvement of the subjects in making the art is central to Hamill’s work. This unique aesthetic --- showing collaborative art from China cast for further participation in the United States--- has a reflexive character: it can stimulate viewers to an awareness of their own participation and to a revelation of the self-reflexive character of the artistic process.

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