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Valerie Hammond

April 27 - June 3, 2006


"Valerie's work exists in a glimmer, in the periphery,
slightly away or out of vision, in a kind of magical realm
in the musty undergrowth at the edge of our gardens."
-- Kiki Smith

(above: Valerie Hammond, Madill, 2006, Transfer, pencil and wax on paper, 38" x 25" Photo credit: andywainright.com)


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 serve 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. (right: Valerie Hammond, Substance of a Dream (detail), 2006, Mixed media, Dimensions variable. Photo credit: andywainright.com)

On view at CUE, Hammond's over 30 current works on paper and site-specific installation explore the emotional, physical, and psychological properties of gesture as essential qualities of portraiture. In Hammond's grouping of portraits of close friends, the artist conveys her subject's essence by focusing exclusively on heads and hands -- the most expressive parts of the body. She initially renders onto paper either the actual gesture of the sitter or the subject's recorded imprint, then submerges the drawing in wax, and continues applying further layers of imagery derived from organic materials such as ferns, vines, and twigs. In her highly tactile visual translations, textures and properties of chosen materials often take on human, physical attributes and at times, threads and beads directly sewn onto the surface heighten the corporeal effect of her patterning. The delicate pencil and gouache renderings of flowers drawn on tissue-thin, gampi paper that comprise the series,

Pieces of Woe (2006), quietly emerge layer-by-layer as intricate mandelas and profound metaphors for the body's decay and healing processes. In the site-specific work, Substance of a Dream (2006), Hammond translates her ephemeral memories into tangible forms, patterns, and shadows. Mask-like faces, constructed out of paper or lucite and embedded with images and words derived from the artist's dreams, journals, and collection of old anonymous photographs are combined to convey an open mediation on the passing of time.

Through Hammond's layering process, moments, memories, dreams, and references to the power of touch become profound psychological markers with which to convey both the physical and emotional connections she shares with her subjects.


About the artist

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. Most recently, she has had exhibitions in Madrid, New Zealand, New Delhi, as well as the M% Gallery in Cleveland, OH, The Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, and Weber State University, in Ogden, UT. Hammond lives and works in the Lower East Side of New York City with her husband and two children.

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