Harmony Hammond talk

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Overall I enjoyed listening to Harmony Hammond's talk about her work and her experiences as a female artist throughout the years. What really caught my attention was when she stated that as an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, there were only two female instructors at the time. Which is mind boggling because my experience as an art student has been quite different. Most if not all of my instructors were women, and a majority of students in art classes are women as well. As an undergraduate, her art instructors never really focused on the content of her paintings, but focused on her techniques instead. It was interesting to hear that she was painting "hermaphrodites" but no one ever asked her why at the time, when artists are now expected to talk about their content and personal direction.

As she shifted towards abstract expressionism, she had a solo exhibition at the Coffman Memorial student union gallery. Harmony gave a piece of advice that I thought was helpful for all aspiring artists, which was "It's important to exhibit your work any place you can, to take, or make space". Because I believe it is an important first step to make a path for yourself. Life is a journey and it won't move unless you take action. Hammond later on states her shift into becoming a feminist artist. She brings in gendered content in her work by utilizing materials associated with females, and the way these materials are manipulated also can change how a viewer reacts to her work.

Shifting towards her involvement in A.I.R gallery and W.A.R.M., it was inspiring to hear that it was quite a fright for the members because they didn't know how influential their organization would become, they were all into this together. Members of A.I.R. were given visibility in the visual arts, and they were provided with an important gallery space that allowed them to show any work they wanted.

The way that Harmony talked about about her fabric on canvas works was very poetic and sensual as she described the group of work. She talks about how these canvases are suggestions of the human body, as if the pieces of fabric were a censorship of the female body. Her description as a painter isn't very shocking even though she uses other materials such as fabric or other materials. I believe there are two types of painters, one who thinks of their painting as an image, or one who thinks of their painting as an object, and Hammond sees her paintings as an object.

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I appreciated your comments and hearing your reflections on hearing Hammond's experience at the U compared to your own. I was thinking about this the other day when I realized that so far all my instructors (inc the TAs) have been male (except for this Visiting Artists Program,) though the classes are predominantly female. I heard said that the department's faculty is at parity, but you definitely wouldn't know it from my experience. I can't say that I care though, or that I feel it has affected my student experience, but it is worth noting.

I also am glad you brought up the discussion of content vs technique focus in the classroom. It is strange to imagine that such a controversial(at the time) subject matter would not come up in critiques, though it was unclear to me if subject matter at all was a focus in Hammond's day or if it was just that no one talked about hers. I understood the latter case when I heard her speak, though I have heard others of that generation describe their own experiences in art school and how there was more of an emphasis on technique and less on personal expression. It made me wonder if the lack of discussion or questioning about her content choice was all that uncommon, or at least if it was a more extreme version of general tendencies compounded with some social discomfort. I don't know I wasn't there, but these are the thoughts that come to me.

Thanks for your comments.

- Allison Ruby

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This page contains a single entry by nguye964 published on February 11, 2013 1:09 PM.

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