Curated by Kiki Smith
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's life-an open meditation on portraiture.
I would like to thank Kiki Smith, Agnes Gund, Daniel Shapiro, Matt Garson, Lisa Sette, Barry Frier, Hilary Radner, Bob, Emma, and Luc for their incredible support.
by Kiki Smith
Quite often when people mistake me, knowing that I'm an artist, for another known woman artist of a generation or so before, I glibly respond that we are sort of interchangeable. If you could zoom out a bit, like in a Charles Eames book, or now on Google satellite maps, it would be harder to distinguish what separated artists' work at a given moment, and more overridingly apparent what we share.
Valerie Hammond and I met through a mutual friend. She and I lived near one another, and as we became acquainted, it became apparent that we had a great affinity to one another and shared similar preoccupations in our work. Over the last ten years or so she has become indispensable to me as an artist, colleague, friend, co-teacher, and companion.
Both Valerie and I came from Irish-Catholic backgrounds. We are drawn to the curiosities of Victorian aesthetics, and we are both avid printmakers. Valerie's work is very apparent to me; we both reside between the material world and the spirit realms in our daily lives. Her work is immediate and visceral, extremely feminine and familiar. She weaves her work amongst her domestic life, her teaching, her studio life and her children's exercises. Valerie has a sensitivity to paper and a deep, fundamental interest in printmaking, and in expanding the range of possibilities within making prints. We share a similar sensibility, temperament, and personal expectations. I implanted myself into her generous family. At some point I invited her as a visiting artist to my printmaking class at NYU; since then we have taught together at NYU and Columbia University.
But while I grew up in the cold shadow of puritanical New England, Valerie grew up as a California surfer chick in a small rural town in central California and went to the University of California at Berkeley for graduate school along with Theresa Cha and Shirin Neshat. She worked during the early 80's at the enormously influential Pacific Film Archive, and since then has taught extensively in France and the United States.
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. She is graced with a knowledge and appreciation of enchantment. She works extensively in paper using repetitive images that unfold and reveal nuances. She unearths the deep-rooted connection between our bodies and the natural earth; the way things deteriorate and are reborn. By focusing on remnants and traces she creates a physical reliquary representing our ancestors and our lives in flux.
We are part of a group of women artists in our time expanding the boundaries of art to include the complexity and wholeness of our experience.
Valerie Hammond was born in the small town of Santa Maria, CA. Though in school she regularly made shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary during the month of May, it was not until the age of fourteen that she was introduced to art through a class at a new local school. At that moment, she decided to become an artist. 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 was appointed to her first teaching position through the Cleveland Institute of Art in Lacoste, France where she lived 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 and 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, the M% Gallery in Cleveland, OH, Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ and Weber State University, Ogden, UT. Hammond lives and works in the Lower East Side with her husband and two children.
Kiki Smith, an artist, has lived and worked in the East Village and Lower East Side for the last 30 years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s she was a member of Collaborative Projects Inc. Smith has taught printmaking and drawing in various schools including Cooper Union, New York University and Columbia University. Smith has collaborated with various poets and writers, including Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Lynne Tillman and Susanna Moore.
Smith's work is represented in several New York museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art where she had an exhibition entitled Prints, Books, and Things in 2003. A traveling retrospective organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980-2005, will culminate in the Fall of 2006 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In 2000, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture awarded her with their prestigious Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY in 2005, and most recently the Rhode Island School of Design honored her with the Athena Award for Excellence in Printmaking.
Kiki Smith has been represented by PaceWildenstein since 1994.
Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro