Hammond '72 Exhibition Comes to MHC

Posted: September 1, 2006

Updated: December 18, 2006 - WFCR Interview Audio(4.4 MB, Time: 6:24)

For some children, a backyard is a playground. For others, it is a clue to their destinies.

When Jane Hammond '72 was a little girl, she liked to construct string-grids over the yard behind her childhood home. She would then spend many happy hours cataloging the yard's contents.

Hammond grew up to become a renowned artist whose works reflect her life-long fascination with collecting, sorting, and memory. Along the way, she invented her own visual language, based on 276 images borrowed from books on everything from puppetry to beekeeping.

Starting September 5, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum offers a chance to enter Hammond's disciplined yet wildly creative world through its special exhibition, Jane Hammond: Paper Work.

While Hammond made her reputation as a painter, the exhibition showcases her exceptional talents as a paper artist. Jane Hammond: Paper Workfeatures more than 55 unique paper objects, which make reference to board games, scrapbooks, maps, charts, books, and even three-dimensional costumes.

"It's amazing," said Kate Dalton, the museum's art advisory board fellow, who was busily helping to install Paper Worklast week. "I've worked on the show for over a year, and yet I was unprepared for how stunning [Hammond's] works are. I'm encouraging everyone I know to come and experience them firsthand."

Hammond has described her intricate collage style as a "semiotic genome project," underscoring the endlessly varied interactions between image and viewer.

"My intention was to use the lexicon of the 276 images in 'recombinant' fashion--think DNA--and let myself make any kind of work of art I wanted with them," wrote Hammond.

Paper Work'sopening gala will be held at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum Thursday, September 21. At 4:30 pm, Hammond will talk about her work in Gamble Auditorium. Her lecture will be followed by a reception featuring jazz by the Jay Messer Trio.

The exhibition's centerpiece, All Souls (Masindi), is the latest in Hammond's exquisitely lifelike butterfly map series. All who see the map are startled by its delicate verisimilitude. "Are those butterflies real?" they ask.

Another exhibition highlight is Scrapbook (1000 Yen), a large open book into which is sewn Japanese paper. Affixed to the two open pages are silhouettes, paper doll-like figures, paper flowers, money, safety pins, paper necklaces, and handmade paper matchbooks. "Hammond's work is so thick with storytelling. Every time I look at Scrapbook, I find a subtle reference or sly joke that I hadn't noticed before," Dalton said.

Regarding works such as her humorously disorienting Still Life with Seal and Martin House Me, Hammond has written, "For me these drawings are the visual equivalent of thinking out loud. They begin without a plan and end up as they are. You could call them free-associative, although it's increasingly complicated as to what the word 'free' means in that context."

"They are built of different layers and techniques that happen sequentially, and each is an intuitive response to the images, signs, and marks that are there. At some point all of these rhymes, skips, jumps, consonances, and dissonances hover together in a charged way. They are like flow charts. Thinking diagrams. And by thinking I mean everything--cognition, emotion, goosebumps."

After Jane Hammond: Paper Work closes at Mount Holyoke College Art Museum on December 17 it will embark on a national tour. Admission to Paper Workand other exhibitions is free; donations are welcome.

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Mount Holyoke College Art Museum