Valerie Hammond is known for drawing inspiration from a rich array of spiritual references, including religious effigies, devotional objects and iconography, mythology, and the mysterious realms of the cosmos. Yet...
Valerie Hammond is known for drawing inspiration from a rich array of spiritual references, including religious effigies, devotional objects and iconography, mythology, and the mysterious realms of the cosmos. Yet despite her often beautiful imagery, with representations of an enchanted (or enchanting) natural world, Hammond also depicts the corporeal and the visceral – the fertile splendor of nature is only possible with its inevitable process of disintegration, decomposition, and death.
Embracing the full scope of human experience, Hammond is decisively unsentimental. Filtered through a deep understanding of art history and its political and cultural precedents, her work is rooted in a foundation of feminism and social activism. Living in New York City, particularly in the East Village, during the city’s heavy and heady 1980s, Hammond has long engaged with an underground of political rebellion. Printmaking, with its process-oriented, experimental nature, and – importantly – its intrinsic ability to produce multiples, has an established history of propelling and disseminating protest. Often facilitated by printers working together in a communal atelier, the medium’s collaborative spirit runs counter to the lone genius of the artist and instead encourages the intermingling of ideas. Hammond gravitated towards printmaking not only for its variety of techniques and image-making possibilities but for the interactive qualities inherent to its methodology.
Hammond's work navigates between representation and the manifestation of the un-representable, alluding to the passage of time and the various transitions from one state of being to another. This sense of transformation is at the very core of printmaking (and especially so in etching). The medium is unique in its preservation of the artist’s creative process, achieved through a series of state proofs. These proofs are made at intervals while the image is being composed, and provide a physical record of the print’s evolution, visually chronicling the history of an artist’s decisions, additions, and re-workings.
For Hammond, the process of making her work determines the outcome of the final pieces. Ultimately, the work is experiential, not predetermined. Printmaking’s elucidation of an image’s journey, witnessed over a period of time, is fundamental to this concept. Hammond has a unique artistic vision – her work is the product of her individual outlook and personality – has a visual language and a sense of wonder at the beauty and mystery of nature. Her collaborative approach to prints, and the endless experimentation with the medium, suggest a kind of story- telling, a loose narrative of transformative power echoed in the cyclical disintegration and re-growth of the natural world. Ultimately, her work strives to capture the low hum of universal experience in the midst of a bustling and sometimes numbing everyday existence, and in this way offers a brief but profound moment of revelation.