The two-story house located at 15354 St. Marys St. on Detroit’s west side has been in Asia Hamilton’s family for 42 years. This is where she came of age with her three sisters and mother.
“We have a huge family of women,” she says. “And you know women attract more women. It’s always been a space for talking and emotions.” Taking a brief pause, Hamilton draws similarities to the essence of Carrie Mae Weems’ popular “The Kitchen Table Series” (1990) that featured 20 artistic photographs and 14 text panels documenting a woman’s life in the intimate setting of her kitchen.
“That pops in my mind because we spent a lot of time in the kitchen conversing and telling stories. You get home from work or school, and the first place you go after getting comfortable is to the kitchen. So, a lot of the conversations and bonding happened there,” Hamilton says.
Hamilton’s childhood home continues holding space for the legacy of women, conversation and storytelling with an art installation titled Womxnhouse Detroit — currently on view through Oct. 31. Following the debut installation, she will transform the home into an artist residency for women.
Hamilton, founder and curator of Norwest Gallery of Art, teamed up with fellow artist Laura Earle to conceptualize and bring the project to fruition. Featuring 14 female artists who were each given a room or space in the home to create works that commented on and/or responded to what it means to be a woman in America, Womxnhouse Detroit is also an homage to the Womanhouse feminist exhibition of 1972 led by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. The collaborative movement was staged in an abandoned Hollywood mansion and featured works by 20 female artists advocating for women’s rights and speaking out against oppressive treatment.
“We’re bringing this in 2021 to look at what’s changed, but it’s sad because a lot of things haven’t changed. There’s still a lot of discrimination and injustices against women — abortions, wage gaps, chauvinism,” Hamilton assesses. “So, this exhibit is about sharing how things have changed and what remains the same.”
Fractured, a display by Laura Lei Bias, illustrates some of the issues that remain: violence and abuse against women. In X-ray-like images positioned on the front and side windows in the living room, Bias shows various broken body parts as a metaphor for the emotional abuse experienced as a youth by her father.
My Mama’s Chair is one of Hamilton’s contributions to the space — perhaps the most intimate of her offerings. The leather recliner chair sits in the corner of the main room of the house with her mother’s white dress draped over it. Her mother passed last year from COVID-19. The items, she says, are from a caregiver’s perspective. “I wanted to bring attention to that because a lot of women [and men] become caregivers when their parents get older and nobody’s talking about it. One of the things I wanted to do for her was make her comfortable.”
On the second level, before reaching The Womb Room where an ultra sound effect can be heard, Sabrina Nelson designed The Apothecary — a medicinal and spiritual healing space. Take a few steps across the hall and you enter the Prayer Room created by interdisciplinary artist Dalia Reyes. From the angelic light fixture on the ceiling to the portal placed in the middle of the floor, the space encourages visitors to breathe, meditate and leave a prayer note/words of inspiration on the wall.
*Audio bonus: Dalia Reyes shares the inspiration behind her Prayer Room installation at Womxnhouse Detroit.
For decades, the house on St. Marys Street has been a sacred space for the Hamilton family; today, it is an artistic offering and residency for women to create, heal and be united.
“This is home,” Hamilton says. “And home for all of us. I want people to be able to feel the love energy and the light energy that we’re bringing.”