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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 of hands.
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