Hamilton, Griffith, Robinson works help mark gallery's 20th anniversary

Paul Hamilton had never experienced the change of seasons.

He arrived at CCAD from Florida, where his father worked for Rockwell International on the NASA Space Shuttle program after moving from California, where Paul was born.

“It really caught my eye and intrigued me the way that the world does change like this that I wasn't aware of,” Hamilton said in an interview at Hammond Harkins Galleries in the Short North. “I fell in love with Ohio, especially the rural aspect of it. Where I grew up in Florida was very developed. Columbus was quite a bit different then. I would venture out into the country and really fell in love with the old structures, these barns and things, and some of the scenes that I had never seen.”

Those trips reminded and reinforced Hamilton's appreciation for nature. His earliest drawings were of trees and animals, or underwater scenes.

“I've never gotten away from landscapes for too long. It's my passion,” he said. “I try to focus on man-made elements I find in nature. I like the dialogue between buildings and the natural elements.”

In 1997, Marlana Hammond Keynes opened an art gallery in Bexley (the gallery relocated to its current Short North digs in 2015). Her first three shows featured artists who were established, but whose eventual impact on art and culture in Columbus and beyond had not yet reached its apex. The first was landscape artist Paul Hamilton, followed consecutively by Denny Griffith and Aminah Robinson.

As the gallery marks its 20th anniversary, it brings the work of those three artists together for “3 Artists,” a show that continues through the end of the month.

“When you find artists like this, it's perfection … divine,” Keynes said.

Robinson and Griffith, who died in 2015 and 2016, respectively, are represented by primarily never-before-seen works that range from as far back as 1968 to as recently as last year, gleaned from studio visits by Keynes and with help from Robinson archivist Carole Genshaft.

Hamilton created a new set of work for “3 Artists,” something he said he does for every show.

“Everything for this show focuses on the Ohio landscape,” he said, since the show is on Ohio.

Additionally, he said, “I want to be cognizant of the other artists' work being alongside this other work. These other two artists are of stellar quality — Aminah Robinson obviously is one of the great artists to come out of Ohio. I was proud back then and I'm even more proud now.”

Hamilton said as an artist he's inspired by things he sees, but that he's looking for a little bit more in his landscapes.

“There is realism in these paintings, but I think all the paintings stroke some emotional chord. The reality is we've all walked by these streams at some point in our lives. I think emotionally everyone can tend to relate to these paintings in a certain way,” he said. “The technique is to try to capture a beautiful scene, but more than that try to capture an emotional aspect, to create a dialog between viewer and painting.

I'm seeking a scene with a story that resonates. A lot of times I'll see a pretty scene but it doesn't maybe resonate.

“I try to capture the essence and feel of a landscape. One of my strengths is the ability to connect with a place and connect that to people.”

While these landscapes being in Ohio was important to Hamilton, their precise location isn't, despite the fact the people always seem to want to know.

“There's a dichotomy. It's not really about wanting to make you want to go out and see where this barn is, for example, but more about how is this barn or this creek or this scene is affecting you. It's more the emotional draw,” he said. “I know a lot of people really want to know location, and that's important to people and that's important to me. But what's most important is the emotional pull of that. These paintings aren't painted photographs. They're more about painted emotions and painted feelings.

“I want to manage to get some storytelling in there.”