Valerie Hammond has always been drawn to places and objects
that are full of mystery. The expressive and devotional qualities
of church shrines, ex-votos, and Asian art ranging from Tibetan
medical drawings to Buddhist sculptures have served as inspiration
for the artist. As spiritual objects, they possess the ability to
impart on the viewer a sense of enchantment grounded by human
connectivity, and this offering of transformation echoes Hammond's
desire to record both the tangible and elusive aspects of the human
condition in her work.
Valerie Hammond was born in Santa Maria, California. She received
her MFA from the University of California at Berkeley, where she was
awarded the Eisner Award. Upon graduation she moved to New York City
and subsequently, was appointed to her first teaching position through
the Cleveland Institute of Art in Lacoste, France. She lived in France
on and off for the next three years. Upon returning to New York, she
began teaching inner city school children art part time through the
Studio in a School program. Hammond has taught printmaking at Columbia
University, New York University, the Yale Norfolk Program; drawing at
Cooper Union School of Art, and has been a visiting art critic at RISD.
She has had exhibitions in Madrid, New Zealand, New Delhi, and
throughout the United States.
As an artist I have found that process is a fundamental part of my work.
In practice this means that I might have ideas about where my work is
going, but often the physical process of the work informs what actually
happens in my studio. I am interested in evoking sensation and making
work which is corporeal in nature. While the figures and portraits may
begin to point towards or suggest sentiment, it is important to me that
the work is not sentimental but experiential.
Growing up in a small agricultural community in California, my exposure
to cultural institutions was limited, at best. I have always been drawn
to places and objects that are full of mystery. Some of my most
significant visual influences were images I saw in church. While the
religious aspect of my church experience was less pressing, the visual
cues at church were what kept my attention. I am fascinated by shrines
and ex-votos-devotional votive objects that families make to show love
and respect. These objects inspire the type of physical intimacy that
holds my artistic practice. Asian art is also a strong influence on my
work. From Tibetan medical drawings to Buddhist sculptures, I find
myself looking to ancient forms for inspiration. Gesture often plays a
most prominent role for these artists-as it does for me-whether it plays
out in a small aspect of the image or is its essence, as with the images
Layering is another essential aspect of my work. Whether this is seen
or perceived as physical or contextual, my interest is in combining the
literal and emotional qualities that are evoked through the physical
process of layering. I begin by collecting ferns and other organic
materials, transforming them through drawing and the printmaking process,
creating images that marry the ferns with images of the body. These
images reflect the uniqueness of individual hands, as well as reveal
the tracing of the spirit. The process, in which the image itself is
submerged in a tray of heated wax, metaphorically removes the image
from the world of the living but paradoxically preserves it indefinitely.
The images act as mechanisms to stop time-to document a moment in a person
life-an open meditation on portraiture.
- Valerie Hammond , 2011