HAMLETT DOBBINS David Lusk Gallery Website CV
Memphis, TN | Painting
A native of Tennessee, Hamlett Dobbins spent most of his life in Memphis. He received his BFA from the University of Memphis in 1993 and went on to receive his MA and MFA from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. After completing his graduate studies, Dobbins moved to Memphis where he worked as a curator for Delta Axis @ Marshall Arts while teaching at University of Memphis, University of Mississippi, and at Memphis College of Art. In 2000 he received a fellowship for a residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont as well as a three month residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska. He has received grants from the Pollock Krasner Foundation as well as the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Individual Artists Grant. He has shown his work throughout the region as well as at Art in General in New York, NP40 in Amsterdam, The American Academy in Rome, Dogmatic in Chicago, and Lump Gallery in North Carolina. His work has appeared in New Art Examiner, Art Papers and Number. For the last fifteen years Dobbins has been active in the art community in Memphis working as a curator, a writer, and a teacher. From 2001 to 2013 he was the director of the Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College where he also taught. From 2004 to 2013 he ran a non-commercial alternative space called Material where he provided exhibition opportunities for nearly a hundred artists from Memphis, Tokyo, and places in between. In 2013 he was awarded the Rome Prize and spent eleven months as a fellow at the American Academy in Rome. He now lives in Memphis with his two children, Milla and Ives.
You have two kinds of boys born in 1970: Lego boys and Lincoln Log boys. I’m a Lego boy. I was seven years old when I saw Star Wars for the first time, and when I got home I went straight to the Lego box to build the things I had just seen on the big screen. It’s not hard to imagine the scene: a boy on the shag carpet of his bedroom in rural Tennessee, hunched over a bin of Legos in a concentrated effort to connect with the story he’d seen hours before. And after building his own version of Star Wars ships, becoming part of the story himself.
Legos were a way for me to create whatever I could imagine, and I am still doing that now only with paint instead. I am trying to understand why these experiences of real life or moments in stories or movies move me. The first shot of Lux Lisbon in the Virgin Suicides ... the way Elwood P. Dowd says, “and the evening wore on” in Harvey ... the recording of a my father’s voice telling The Story of the Rose ... a late night road trip with an abrasive friend ... all of these moments contain the powerful impact of something pure and raw. Since 2002 my paintings have focused on experiences with particular people, hence the series of initials in the titles. Since each painting is based on a specific experience with a particular friend or family member each painting tends to have its own sets of parameters and challenges. I use painting to focus on an experience and to wrap myself in the moment. By building the experience I begin to understand what about the moment moved me to paint in the first place.