Skip to content
Recess homepage


Wonder Room

Allison Janae Hamilton

A photo of Wonder Room
A photo of Wonder Room

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

May 27–July 9, 2017

Visitor info
To make an appointment, please sign up no later than 10 am the same day at

Read our safety guideline

Keep straight down this block,
Then turn right where you will find
A peach tree blooming.

I give permission
For this slow spring rain to soak
The violet beds.

— Richard Wright (1960)

On May 27, Allison Janae Hamilton will begin work on Wonder Room, a project that will transform Recess into a hybrid of a treehouse, resource lounge, imaginative think tank, and community environment. The installation—which will be activated by imagery from the natural world; plants, animal matter, and other organic artifacts; reading materials; and curated sounds—will offer opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in a constructed, multi-faceted landscape and to explore the social implications of geographic space.

Wonder Room responds to the trope in the Western poetry canon of wonder or contemplation serving as a vehicle for personal or spiritual transformation within the natural landscape. However, drawing from the last four centuries of African-American nature poetry, the project circumvents the contemplative form attributed to the romantics and transcendentalists by instead using wonder as a means of thinking through the social and political concerns associated with landscape today—particularly those relating to environmental justice, displacement, and sustainability. Many of the sights, sounds, and imagery featured in the installation space come from Hamilton’s home regions within the rural American south. By infusing Recess’s Soho storefront with these materials, Wonder Room creates a deliberate play between the gallery’s urban surroundings and the project’s rural imagery. In this way, Wonder Room points to the impact that migration has on our relationships to landscape and the complexities of addressing rural space within an urban context.

Throughout the Session, the installation will act as the backdrop to a series of programs, including a film screening, song circle, book club discussion, and communal Sunday supper. Across these events, Wonder Room will accrue distinct resonances as it variously functions as the site of aesthetic experimentation, discursive exploration, and social exchanges.

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Allison Janae Hamilton

Allison Janae Hamilton is a visual artist working in photography, video, sculpture, installation, and taxidermy. Born in Kentucky and raised in Florida, she now lives and works in New York City. She has exhibited at museums and institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC), The Jewish Museum (New York, NY), Fundación Botín (Santander, Spain), The Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, IL), and the Tacoma Art Museum (Tacoma, WA). Her artwork has appeared in the Brighton Photo Biennial and the Istanbul Design Biennial. Hamilton was a 2013-2014 Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program, sponsored by the Whitney Museum of American Art. She has been awarded artist residencies at Recess (New York, NY), Fundación Botín (Santander, Spain), the School of Visual Arts (New York, NY) and the Rush Arts Foundation (New York, NY). Hamilton received her PhD in American Studies from New York University and her MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University. Her artwork has appeared in publications such as Transition Magazine, Women and Performance, Arte Al Limite, NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, and Artforum.


artist website


See all

May 9–June 19, 2024

The Meeting Place

Helina Metaferia

A site for transformative gatherings by and for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) women (cis and transgender)

March 7–April 19, 2024

Lavendra/Recovery Project

E. Jane

fueled by a reverence for the artistic legacy of Black American R&B divas

November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024

Session & Assembly Collaboration: BARRO

Marcela Torres and Assembly

Torres in collaboration with Assembly will explore the history of New York through its soil and natural clay deposits.