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Excavations

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This essay was written by my dear friend, William Barrett. He was a professor of philosophy at New York University,  an editor of Partisan Review, and later the literary critic of The Atlantic Monthly. The essay appeared in the catalog accompanying my solo exhibition of clay sculptures at Pindar Gallery, NYC, in 1983.

Excavations: Sculptures in Clay by Phyllis Hammond

When it comes to clay as a medium for serious art, we Americans tend to take an ambiguous attitude. We are willing to grant full honors to the craftsman, to the ceramicist and the potter, but we are likely to be far less open to the possibilities of clay for a freer and bolder kind of aesthetic expressions. Phyllis Hammond challenges this assumption, and that is one reason, among others, why she is a significant figure at the present time.

Not that she would, in any way, demean the art of the craftsman. On the contrary, her background and credentials here are impeccable; she is herself a ceramicist of taste and elegance, trained and disciplined in her craft. But the imagination is a driving force that sometimes acts in its own mysterious ways. A few years ago tiny faces and figures began to peep out of the vases and urns she was creating. They would not be suppressed, they insisted on being born. The procession of such figures has continued ever since getting ever freer, bolder and more expressive.

The evolution from craftsman to artist here has been one of the authentic developments in recent art. It is not a matter of contrivance, but comes from the depths of the artist’s imagination and unconscious. These figures forced their way forward; they would not be denied – they insisted upon being born. And perhaps this struggle to be born may be taken as the theme of her work.

In all of this she has, nevertheless, remained true to clay as her chosen medium. She has not gone over to other materials for her sculpture. Her work reminds us what powerful medium clay can still be, if we would but take it seriously and passionately. After all, the discovery of the potter and his wheel stands at the awesome beginnings of our civilization, and that is enough to shake the imagination.

However, Hammond soars, she does not leave the clay. The procession of haunting enigmatic figures that emerge in her work are struggling either to be born of the primordial earth, or are in the process of sinking back into it. They are figures either from a vanished civilization, or from one that has not yet been born – perhaps, both at once. And because we are all engaged, in one way or another, in our own personal struggles to be born, they are images that engage us all. Certainly, they are almost the more haunting and powerful figures given us by a recent art, and Hammond has already established herself as an artist of rare originality and force.

William Barrett

April 22nd, 2015|Current Post|

Press Release: Show opening 5/23/2015

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PRESS RELEASE

 

Memorial Day Weekend:   The Chase Edwards Gallery, located at 2162 Main St., Bridgehampton, NY, will host a special exhibition entitled, “Everlasting Color” featuring sculptor Phyllis Baker Hammond (b1930), and pop-art painter Athos Zacharias (b. 1927), living masters of the Hamptons, as they continue to follow the tradition of what the abstract expressionists cultivated during an explosive movement here in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Zacharias and Hammond where among a fertile circle of colleagues and friends such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, and the plethora of contemporary artists who continue to live and work on the East End of Long Island.  This exhibition explores a history in movement through playful light and color of two artist who have lived and worked in the region, contributing to its course through their creativity and aesthetic understanding within.  The opening will be May 23, from 6-9:00pm.

April 22nd, 2015|Current Post, Current Sculptures, The Studio|

Haystack Artist’s Colony

Haystack has been tremendously important to me, a refuge and source of inspiration, a safe place to recharge creatively. I have been a resident there four times. My  first visit to Haystack (full name: Haystack Mountain School of Crafts) was shortly after I graduated from college. It was  like bursting out of a box. Part of it was being released from the mundane responsibilities of daily life- shopping, cooking, etc. All those things were taken care of, freeing the residents to devote themselves to creative productivity.

It’s on Deer Island, Maine, disconnected from the mainland, a world in itself. On my first visit there were about 60 attendees. The teachers brought their significant others, and many of those significant others turned out to be luminaries in their own fields, giants in humanities, dance, music. They would put on spontaneous performances combining several disciplines. I remember one that featured a John Cage recording randomly interspersed with readings of unrelated text. It was a disconnect of art and music, but at the end it strangely made sense- all this disorder, somehow making order, a great lesson of not being afraid of nonsense.

Textile designer Jack Larsen was one of the instructors, and head of the weaving department. He was hysterically funny, and would periodically  wake everyone up in the middle of the night, leading a parade through the compound, singing and making music on pots and pans.

The combination of creative freedom and isolation from the outside world was too much for some attendees. There were nervous breakdowns, especially among  younger fragile participants, and Haystack eventually raised the age requirement to 21.

April 1st, 2015|Current Post|

Ube, Japan Museum Installation

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Article on the exhibition in Ube newspaper.

 

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An article in the East Hampton Star on the exhibition in Japan.

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Phyllis Hammond with winning sculpture, “Redefining Space” in Ube, Japan.

Ube, Japan Museum Installation

Mr Sasaki and Andrea

Akira Sasaki and his daughter Andrea Sasaki with my sculpture in process. Both are architects. They were immensely helpful during the fabrication of my sculpture.

1.Redefining Space Steel Steel Paint H10ftx 44FT 2009 - $50,000

“Redefining Space” on permanent display in the Tokaiwa Park Sculpture Garden.

 

 

In 2009 I won an award in the Ube Tokiwa Museum’s 23rd International Biennale sculpture competition.

Ube was one of the first Japanese cities bombed in WWII. It had been the site of a large chemical plant. The city was totally demolished, and a lake was created where the chemical plant had been. During the rehabilitation period after WWII, the citizens of Ube created a campaign to beautify the area with greenery and flowers. The Tokiwa Museum was opened in 1961. A huge sculpture park around the lake was eventually created, and in 1963 the first Biennale was held.  Originally known as the “Ube Exhibition of Outdoor Sculpture”, it was the very first large-scale sculpture exhibition ever held in Japan.

The award I received included travel costs,  the cost of fabricating the sculpture,  and a cash prize.  I had built a 15″ aluminum model of the sculpture and traveled to Ube in 2009 to oversee the construction of the full scale piece in steel, which is 12′ x 9′ x 9′. When I arrived, I was greeted with polite shock by the museum officials, who had assumed until they set eyes on me that I was male. In the group of 39 artists selected for the show, I was the only woman. I later learned that among the many hundreds of artists included in the whole 23 year history of the show, I was one of exactly three women.

 

March 25th, 2015|Current Post, Ube Museum Installation, Women In Art|

The Will Award

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THE 2001 SHAKESPEARE WILL AWARDS

 

In 1988 I won an invitational competition to be the designer of the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, nicknamed “The Will Award”.
My bronze sculpture was awarded by The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC for 20 years, from 1988 to 2008. The list of honorees includes Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Hopkins, Dame Maggie Smith, Hal Holbrook, Patrick Stewart, Sam Waterson, Lynn Redgrave, Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, Christopher Plummer, Kevin Kline,  and Joseph Papp. I had the pleasure of attending the award ceremony every year, on Shakespeare’s birthday. Always an elaborate event, the gala was a colorful swirl of guests mingling with distinguished classical actors  dressed in Elizabethan costume. As was the custom in Shakespeare’s day, when female roles were portrayed by male performers, a number of the actors in female costume were men.

Every year the gala raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Theatre’s education and outreach programs that serve over 20,000 public school students annually.

My sculpture shows faces within faces, unfolding like leaves from a tree or peelings from an onion. It is also reminiscent of the open pages of a book. I was awarded this opportunity because the jury panel found my sculpture to be a visual expression of the ambiguity and multiple layers that mark many of Shakespeare’s characters.

 

March 18th, 2015|Current Post, The Will Awards|

The Phoenix Project

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“Phoenix”, commissioned by the state of Connecticut and the Connecticut
Commission On The Arts in 1992.
It stands in front of the Department for Environmental Protection building
in Hartford.

 

Visions and Revisions Bronze 1992

 

 

 

4. Vision Revisions

 

3.Hartford Phoenix2 Gatekeepers 1992 Bronze

March 11th, 2015|Awards & Accolades, Current Post|

Remembering William King

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Words like “awesome” come to mind when thinking of sculptor William King. I’ll always be grateful for the brief time I had to talk to him the day before he died. What an overwhelming experience. His mind was so clear. He had just turned 90. Of course his main concern was his beloved wife, artist Connie Fox​. For the last three years, he used my studio to cut out some of his metal forms. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to be around his great creative spirit.

March 11th, 2015|Current Post, The Studio|

Pratt Institute Collection

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My sculpture in the Pratt Institute collection was selected by David Weinrib, curator of the Pratt Sculpture Park, which was recognized as one of the 10 best college and university campus art collections in the country by Public Art Review in 2006. The composite image appeared on the cover of the Pratt Sculpture Park catalog.

Here’s the caption that appears under my piece on the Pratt Sculpture Park’s website:  “Phyllis Baker Hammond has explored the possibilities of laser cutting to create lace-like dimensional aluminum panels.”

 

 

 

March 4th, 2015|Awards & Accolades, Current Post|

Aluminum Wall Forms

The wall forms start with scribbled lines or doodling,  rather like a happening, totally unexpected.

Doodles or small drawings are scanned into the computer, converted from a pixel to a vector program, and then cut by laser or waterjet from a piece of 4′ x 8′ aluminum….the sculpture is what’s left after it is cut out, converting from positive to negative space. It has a life of its own.

Colored lighting is added to complete the wall structures. When the room lighting is set correctly, shadows add a new dimension to the work.

 

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"IN AND OUT" with lighting

 

 

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February 25th, 2015|Current Post, The Studio|

My Earliest Memories of Art

UnfurlingBlkThe seeds  were planted early. My first working space was a closet. To my five year old eyes it seemed large. I had a shelf-type table across the back of the closet that I used as a desk. There was an overhead light. I did my first drawings from memory, drawings I thought were terrible and distorted compared to what people really looked like. I abandoned that mode of work, copied comic strips and cartoons.

When I was in second grade mom sent me to oil-painting lessons on Saturdays. The teacher put emphasis on how to copy paintings by making a grid.

My mother sent me with pictures to copy: a photo of my grandfather, someone else’s drawing of a Scottie dog like the one we owned.
I liked to draw small doodles, imagining land contours, ends connecting to the water edges like maps. I made carvings in ivory soap, and figures I built in snow thrilled the neighbors. A pastel drawing of a fish made in 5th grade was stolen by a classmate, which I took as a symbol of success.

In the 6th grade I journeyed to the Boston Museum on Saturdays, by myself, for a drawing class. It was a one hour train ride to Bay Back station, then two subway changes to reach Huntington Avenue. Miles from home, I sat looking at plaster statues of  classical Roman or Greek figures in a huge freezing room. Trying every week to make my pencil replicate what I was seeing, I felt like a speck overwhelmed by the space and scale.