Rick Hamilton’s stylistic mannerisms have packed up their trunks and set off for summer camp. In his newest series for UGallery’s group show, Summer Camp, the painter from South Portland, Maine approaches the summertime theme of friendship with a blue-green vision and time-obscured hindsight.
His camp-focused paintings are cast in his modern though representational style. The foundational elements of Rick’s style – gently textured backgrounds, flattened pictorial plane, whimsical scale, elongated figures – remain intact as an undeniable signature.
This series is an evocation of summertime friendship set amid the New England woodsyness of blue-green scenery and sparsely-needled conifers. He gives the theme of friendship a charm and easiness, but not without a wistful twang that resounds in the tiniest, craftiest details that separate the works in this series from those in his larger portfolio.
“Over the years, the names and the faces of the friends I made at camp have disappeared. That is the reason I have left the faces blank on the pieces for this series,” says Rick. “I usually concentrate on the faces of the people I paint so I feel this is quite a departure.”
Rick’s characteristically flattened and conspicuously smoothed-over camp space is carved out of his own memories or, at some points, lack of memories. From this retrospective perch, Rick paints in a knowing, reflective style that appreciates the meaning that camp accrues long after closing day.
The series has honest and witty tone in its approach to the dynamics of summer camp friendship. Rick remarks on the uneasiness campers feel entering their new environment. This awkwardness is the clingy tagalong to early independence and yet essential to the camp buddy relationship and a camper’s independence.
Rick’s wit shines through the exaggeratedly-gentle variation among the campers. These variations are crystalized in Camp Buddies where the variations between the two figures are limited to the absence or presence (and rebellious tilt) of a baseball cap and the striped or polka-dotted bathing suits. Beyond this, the campers are insistently similar.
These similarities become a metaphor for the community, shared experiences, and simultaneous growth that foster the independence. Each camper is independent together.