Hollis Hammonds: Worthless Matter

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Things Hollis Hammonds is Obsessed with:

1. Japanese Manga

2. Post Apocalyptic Narratives

3. Superhero Movies

4. Really Bad Action/Armageddon Films.

“I love seeing the explosions,” she says, leaning over the bar counter, peering around and smiling at me.  Professor and chair of visual studies at St Edwards University in Austin, Texas: but with her black pageboy, smoke-colored glasses and clear gaze, Hollis Hammonds could be a character in one of her manga adventures.

A mad professor, an evil genius, doing what she can to reimagine the materialistic world.

In real life, Hammonds has 11 full-time faculty members, and “I don’t even know how many part-time members.”  Although she teaches three classes a day and for a time also ran a gallery, she shows constantly.  She’s had 10 solo shows all around the country just in the past two years.  “I tend to be more productive in shorter blocks.”

We’re at Closed for Business on a steamy Sunday- on Mother’s Day, in fact, although as I write this, I realize I neglected to ask her if she has any children. (She doesn’t, although she does have a dog.)

“Can I get something really light and crisp?” she says.  “I tend to like Chinese or Japanese beer.”  The bartender amiably sets her up with a tulip of Hitachino. I order a Chocolate Rye Porter.

“I have a couple manifestations of the work,” she says.  “Primarily, though, I draw.  These piles, islands of objects.”

Aftermath: Asteroid

Aftermath: Asteroid

It started in April of 2011, when more than 200 tornadoes broke over the United States in a four day period.  Watching coverage, Hammonds became interested in how “we, as viewers, are interested in the aftermath of both man-made and natural disasters.”

Also drawing on the aftermath of the house fire she experienced herself as a teenager, she began making charcoal sketches on white paper: “Dystopian, futuristic, kind of dark but seductive.”

“Destruction is seductive,” I say.  “We’re drawn to what destroys us.”  Chocolate rye, you’ll be the death of me.

“Yes.”

In Ruins

In Ruins

So her work started as “documentation, homage. Of course, now I’ve turned it into this indulgent fascination with materialistic consumption.  My father was born in the 1920s, my mother in the 1930s.  So they hoarded everything.  I mean, we had an entire room dedicated to plastic containers.  They could not throw anything away.”

I’ve seen Hoarders.  I asked if animal carcasses were ever found amidst the containers.

“That’s the defining line, isn’t it?” Hammonds said.  “No, it never got that far.  Before the house burned, though, my mother had a lot of collections.  She had her mother’s things, her grandmother’s things.  Old furniture, things like that.  But it was after the fire that her desire to collect these things really intensified.  She began to collect dolls, Lilliput houses.  Trying to hang on to something, I guess.”

“You think collections are a way for people to try to comfort themselves?”

“Oh, sure.”

While Hammonds doesn’t have any collections herself, her husband, a graphic designer, does have “a collection of graphic design toys on this floating shelf.”  She laughs.  “He takes them down, rearranges them, everything.  It’s so funny.”

She likes to do work that is endemic to place, and so she always sources her materials from the cities where she makes her installation.  “I got this new studio two years ago, and I did start thinking it’d be great to have a space to collect things for installations.”  She shook her head, smiling ruefully. “But we have this policy- it’s from Pinterest– anything comes in, something has to go out.  We keep everything minimal and clean.  Even artwork has to be approved.”  She laughs again.  “By my husband.”

What do her parents think of her art?   “Maybe they’d feel a little… mocked, I don’t know.”  But her parents are both deceased.  They were each married and divorced prior to having Hammonds, and she has 11 half brothers and sisters, all ranging from 30 to 11 years older than her.  She shrugs when I ask her what they think of her work.

“A lot of them really don’t know what’s going on in my life.  One sister is a quilt artist.  Recently she says to me, “couldn’t there be some leaves?”  She sips her beer.  “You know, I look at people like Anselm Kiefer.  His work is very dark and also amazing.  I don’t think my work is as dark as his, really, but it also ride that line of beauty and terror. My installations, because they are in physical space- the viewer experiences them with a sense of wonder.  They’re visceral.”

I was curious if the house fire she experienced as a girl changed her immediately- or did its impact take a while to surface?

“Going through the process of losing everything as a teenager certainly informed my personality.  I learned to not have emotional attachment to objects.  I treat objects as a metaphor for the human condition but also self-worth.  I’m interested in how collections can validate us societally, personally.  And I’ve lost a lot of people, so I’ve also gone through the process of sorting through these… artifacts.   I have this shoebox. With my father’s license, my mother’s birth certificate, trinkets like that.  And I also have this box of old photographs.  I’ll keep those until they’re lost.”

“It would be awful to throw away photographs.  I always feel horrible when I see those boxes of old photographs for sale in antique stores.  But I wonder if maybe that’s what it takes to move on as a society, philosophically- the destruction/abandonment of objects.  Do you think objects might hold us back from progress?”

She shrugged.  “Our search for power is consuming the world.”  We were quiet a moment, looking around at the happy clutter of the bar.  “I used to be a figurative artist,” she mused.  “I was obsessed with it.  But I’ve got to this stage in my work when I’m more fascinated with storytelling. I took the figure out completely.  I use the things that are left behind to signify the figures.  Chairs, you know.  People’s things.”

“Keeping just the echo of the figure.”

“Yes.  I had that passionate obsession with drawing figures,” she says, to the counter.  “Not to say that it won’t come back, but I don’t have that anymore.”

We finish our beers and walk back to Redux.  It’s locked up, according to a hand-drawn sign, “for all the Mothers in the world. Happy Mother’s Day!”  Hammonds unlocks it, flips on the lights.  The interior is blissfully cool and quiet.  I hug her tightly and then leave her standing there, in an arena of people’s cast off things.

Come see what she’s made of them at the opening of Worthless Matter on May 16th.  Artist talk at 5:30 pm.

endemic sourcing

endemic sourcing

Planning the installation

Planning the installation

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-article by Pauline West, a novelist and writer for Redux Contemporary Art Center.  She is at work on her first Southern Gothic.

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Dan Dickey

“I’ve always painted with a lot of texture, but I didn’t start splatter painting until I moved here.  This is my first studio that wasn’t also a kitchen or a bedroom,” Dan Dickey says.   We’re at the Tivoli, standing in his studio, where every wall is shielded with color-ribboned canvases.  His grandfather’s mower hulks in the center of the room, swizzled with yellow, orange, purple, white and pale-blue.

“I brought it down from Virginia, but when it wouldn’t start, I decided to cover it in paint.”  With a round, fox-colored beard and his way of rooting himself where he stands, Dickey has the distilled presence of a disciplined man.

He shows me how he dips the blunt end of a brush into a paint can and uses it to make a controlled drip over the canvas.

“Sometimes I put a dab of paint here and here, you know, and then I roll the middle of the brush through it.”  He indicated a wandering swath and then, looking at the long, paint-mottled brush in his hand, Dickey said, “I like this one.  I think I might put it up on a long, narrow canvas, just all by itself.  It has a pop.”

“Yeah, it does.”  It’s warm, breezeless in the room, and I pluck at my shirt, absorbed in his paintings.

He smiled.  “A lot of sweat goes into these.  Pretty soon it’ll get too hot to work in here at all, but I usually paint a month on, a month off.  So it’s all right.”

“What’s it like in the winter?”

“Well, it’s cold.”  He shrugged, indifferent.  “I like to work at night.  This canvas, here?  I got up to the crow’s nest up there, all whiskey drunk, and threw the paint down from there.”  The result was thick, ridged tributaries like dried sediment.

I looked around at the other studios.  White drapes swaying from rafters.  Ladders to nowhere, propped up against the walls.  Large, industrial furniture slouched in the corners, rusting comfortably; the warehouse was full of coves where artists could work deeply, losing themselves in process.

“Yeah,” I said, “and in places like this, alone in it at night?  You’re aware of space in a way you can’t be when there’s people in it.”

“Yeah, yeah, absolutely,” he said.  “This canvas is one of Andrew Smock’s.  Underneath all this,” he indicated the layers of paint, “is the Angel Oak, but I painted over it.  A lot of these canvases, actually, have stuff buried beneath them.”  On a wall outside his studio was an enormous piece created from a checkerboard of records and record sleeves, stitched by paint into an interpretation of the American flag.

He likes to bury physical objects as he paints; masks, tubs, tin lids; letting skeins of color veil the ordinary shapes, creating new, shifting ones.

Dickey’s studio feels deliciously like the pages of a Magic Eye book.  You can visit it at 656 King Street.

 

The whisky incident.

The whisky incident.

 

-article by Pauline West, a novelist and writer for Redux Contemporary Art Center.  She is at work on her first Southern Gothic.

#LiftTheLowcountry on May 6!

If you haven’t heard about the May 6th “Giving Day,” it’s a very special day for Lowcountry arts non-profits. Some generous donors have designated $110,000 dollars to match donations to Lowcountry arts orgs, and we’re very excited to be one of them. #LiftTheLowcountry

1. Click on this link

2. Make a donation of $25 or more to Redux

3. Watch your impact double!

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We Need Your Stuff!

Have you ever had your ephemera or discarded home goods immortalized in art?

Well, here is your chance.

Hollis Hammonds will be constructing a site-specific installation for her upcoming exhibition Worthless Matter at Redux (on view May 16 – June 28, proud part of Piccolo Spoleto). She needs your stuff!

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up close installation shot–we need more like this!

In the spirit of re-use and recycling, Austin artist Hollis Hammonds seeks physical donations of objects, furniture, and debris for her upcoming installation: Worthless Matter at Redux. We are looking for old and broken furniture, personal objects, wood scraps, baskets, toys, bikes, and so on.

Please drop off your goodies at:

Redux, 136 St. Philip Street
May 5th – 9th
between 10 am – 6 pm

Call us at 843.722.0697 if you need us to pick up!

Thank you!

Opportunity Alert

Charleston-based artists!

Here are a couple of opportunities you don’t want to miss out on.

Annual Piccolo Spoleto Juried Exhibition – Call For Entries
Deadline: April 21
The City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Redux Contemporary Art Center, is posting an open Call for Entries for the Annual Piccolo Spoleto Juried Exhibition, which will take place at City Gallery at Waterfront Park, 34 Prioleau Street, from May 23 – June 8, 2014.

There will be cash prizes for Best in Show ($500) and in each category: Painting, Printmaking, Photography, Drawing, and Sculpture ($100 each). Applicants must be SC residents for the last 12 months. read more

Enough Pie Community Project Grant
Deadline: April 23
Enough Pie is currently accepting Letters of Intent (a one-page explanation of your idea and how funds would be used) for their Spring granting cycle. Recipients are eligible to receive up to $1,000 if selected. Arts and culture should be at the core of the project, and it needs to be aimed at the upper peninsula of Charleston. read more

CPG

Mariah Channing, Cameo Queen

Untitled, by Mariah Channing

Untitled, by Mariah Channing

Our own Mariah Channing won Best in Photography at the Halsey’s Salon de Refuses!  If you’re interested in a print, she can be reached at mariahchanning@gmail.com.

Come and see the show!  It’s up until May 3rd, 2014, and makes for a delightful walkabout!

UPCOMING at Redux: DIG SOUTH

We’re very excited to be part of DIG SOUTH again, especially after the rabble rousing success that was last year!

Come see us and all the many amazing companies, orgs, artists, and designers that are part of the Space Walk on Wednesday, April 9 from 4 – 6 pm. We’ll be serving up some Holy City Brewing suds & have Open Studios.

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Later that night, come back to the ‘Dux for the Music Series and a special performance from Mechanical River, Johnny Delaware, and Grace Joyner–a night of indie rock and roll from local musicians. Show starts at 9 pm–get your tickets in advance for $10 or $15 at the door!

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In the true Redux spirit, the posters are hand screen printed and totally kick ass.