(Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1950 - )
As a respected American artist of the late 20th-early 21st centuries, Jane Hammond challenges the categorical boundaries that traditionally defined painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography. Her works in multiple media, using many techniques, speak to the connections between intellectual ideas, constructs of language, and visual imagery, as well as the mutable quality of imagery’s meaning throughout history. (1)
Hammond was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1950, and was educated at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts, receiving her B.A. in 1972. She continued her education at Arizona State University in 1973–1974, and later at the University of Wisconsin, receiving an M.F.A. in 1977. She moved to New York, and had her first one-person show at Exit Art in 1989. Initially building her reputation as a painter, from the 1990s forward she focused her creative process on the printed image. While she taught at the Maryland Art Institute between 1980 and 1990 she built a collection of 276 printed illustrational images that she found by canvasing old print resources (books, magazines, engravings, woodcuts, single printed sheets) and in this way assembled a visual lexicon that became the foundation for art production in media that subsequently encompassed painting, drawing, paper collage, and printmaking. Regarding the lexicon, she said in 2002, “I was trying to figure out how to make a kind of work that was decentered and variable, wandering and unpredictable even to me. To this day, I don’t know why I chose some things and not others… as to the number, at some point it seemed like enough…. If I had twenty images it would have been too gamey and pat… If I had 5000 you would never apprehend any structure. It would feel like chaos.” (2)
Hammond received a grant for a printmaking project when she was at the Maryland Institute of Art. “Her assistant prepared an etching plate, but she then carved an additional 23 linoleum blocks that she printed in variations over the single plate etching. She now has several hundred carved and reusable linoleum blocks, in addition to custom made rubber stamps and lithographic cutouts, all containing images from the lexicon that she deploys in her unique works as well as her prints.” (3) Working with paper as a matrix was a natural extension of the artist’s interest in printed images, poetry, and intellectual ideas expressed by the written word. Because of the importance and centrality of concept in her work, she has been categorized as a Conceptual artist, however critics have also focused on the ways in which her art diverges from the Conceptual:
“Although by generation and inclination she is a kind of Conceptualist, Hammond violates that movement’s prohibitions against visual delight in everything she makes. Of all the paradoxes her work embraces, this may be the most engaging, not for its confounding duality of order and its opposite, or matter and spirit, but for its tenaciously held pleasure principle, which insists on finding sensual satisfaction even where the intellect is determined to hold dominion.” (4)
(1) The primary source for Hammond’s biography and analysis of her works on paper is "Jane Hammond: Paper Work", Marianne Doezema, ed., Smith Hadley, MA: Mount Holyoke College, 2007, the catalogue of an exhibition organized by Mount Holyoke College. Other information accessed from the artist’s website http://janehammondartist.com 3 March 2016.
(2) Hammond quoted in Jane Hammond: Paper Work, 1.
(3) Jane Hammond: Paper Work, 15
(4) Jane Hammond: Paper Work, 2.