Lobyn Hamilton: The Vinyl Craftsman - Hoosier's vinyl art earns gallery show at Newfields
Updated: Jun 12
By: Seth Johnson
Lobyn Hamilton has a bit of a vinyl record obsession.
While amassing a personal collection of 30,000 LPs and counting, Hamilton is also known for composing elaborate pieces of artwork made up of deconstructed records. Born and raised in Indianapolis, Lobyn has now been recognized for his artwork in publications including The New Yorker, Complex Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and the IRAAA, while also having his work exhibited in FOX’s hit television show Empire.
Born in 1985, Lobyn grew up in a house off 38th Street and College Avenue. As a child, he remembers regularly making visits to the nearby Indianapolis Museum of Art, while also taking part in clay classes at the Indianapolis Art Center.
“My parents enrolled me in Indianapolis Art Center classes on Saturdays,” Lobyn says. “I would miss X-Men by the time my class would be over, so the Art Center just set up a TV for me so that I could watch X-Men and my father would just pick me up after X-Men was done.”
In addition to these Indianapolis Art Center courses, Lobyn also spent a lot of time as a kid at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Broadway branch, where he’d sit and draw for hours.
“I’d get magazines from there and draw in front of the television,” Lobyn says. “It was my way of getting certain things that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get. Like, I drew a lot of shoes because I knew my parents weren’t going to get them for me. I didn’t have a lot of game systems, so I’d draw cartoon guys from back in the day. I think it was just a way to find my place, in a way.”
While introducing their son to art at a young age, Lobyn’s parents also exposed him to all sorts of music growing up. In particular, Lobyn remembers that his father would often record the latest hit songs off the radio to cassette so they could listen to them in the car.
“I remember riding around Indy on Fridays in my father’s car, and we would just listen to all the new music that came out that week that he had recorded on tapes,” Lobyn says. “We would just ride around and listen to jams, which is a very fond memory. Music was always around.”
At the age of 15, Lobyn received his first turntable set as a gift from his father for Christmas. From here, his record-buying habit began.
“I ended up getting another set of turntables from another guy and inherited some more records, like Beastie Boys, Michael Jackson and stuff,” Lobyn says. “I started buying records from Rockin’ Billy’s, and then it was on. I was buying anything and everything that was coming out.”
During his early days of buying vinyl, Lobyn also remembers purchasing his first record from Indy CD & Vinyl (Coldplay’s 2002 classic A Rush of Blood to the Head), which was owned then by store founder Rick Zeigler.
“I remember the record taking a ton of time to get here because it was imported from England, and I remember it being a 180-gram joint, which was the first time I’d ever bought one of those,” Lobyn says. “It was a tough time in my life, so that record unfortunately resonated with the energy at the time.”
It was also during a trying time in his life that Lobyn created his very first piece of artwork made out of deconstructed vinyl records — a moment he remembers quite vividly.
“I saw this large Bob Marley poster that had these small squares with intricate images of his life,” Lobyn says. “I was like, ‘I don’t think I could do that digitally, but I could definitely do it analog.’ It’s what happens when you’re alone and trying to find your way, and that’s how I found my way. I grabbed a glue gun from my neighbor, got some snips and just started to break up my records.”
Following his initial Bob Marley project, Lobyn continued creating more and more collages using vinyl records, with other early works that featured Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix. After eventually being granted the opportunity to exhibit his work in the basement of Broadway United Methodist Church, Lobyn realized what he was doing with these vinyl record collages was something truly special.
“I saw the looks on people’s faces when they didn’t know what it was and I told them what it was,” Lobyn says. “Their eyes lit up, and then they got closer. So I was like, ‘Oh okay. Maybe I do have something here.’”
Having now worked as a full-time artist since 2013, Lobyn has exhibited his work all across the country. Several noteworthy musicians own pieces crafted by Lobyn too, including rap legend Nas. Despite all these accolades, though, Lobyn says he ultimately finds joy in creating works for the modern-day everyman.
“My life is run by all those people who are supposedly nameless,” he says. “For every Nas, there are hundreds of other individuals that keep me and my family in a place of freedom. To me, that’s really important.”
As he’s created countless pieces of artwork over the years, Lobyn says he’s been heavily reliant on local record shops like Indy CD & Vinyl to bring his ideas to life. “They’ve been really instrumental when records are needed,” Lobyn says of Indy CD & Vinyl. “I’ve gained a lot of vinyl resources from the shop over 20 years now, even before Annie and Andy owned it.”
Now Lobyn is on to an amazing new project: the Hoosier's vinyl art has earned a gallery show at Newfields, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, this Fall.
Continuing forward with this longstanding partnership, Indy CD & Vinyl will play a crucial role in an upcoming exhibition that Lobyn has coming to Newfields titled What I Have You Have. Slated to open on Aug. 26, the show will serve as a “visual memoriam” to Lobyn’s time in the Circle City.
“It’s a culmination of being the first generation born in Indy to my own experiences with family to the outside world of school, art, culture, music and film. How all of these things affect you,” Lobyn says.
While the show will hold unique significance to him, though, Lobyn asks that viewers find themselves in What I Have You Have.
“For me, it’s just a culmination of a life experienced in Indy, but I’m not here to tell somebody else what the works mean,” Lobyn says. “I’m way more curious of what other people get from the show, and hopefully I can be around to just ask questions.”