Featured Artist: Colleen Hammond
Interview by: Brenda Howell
Artessa Alliance welcomed two new members in 2021. So we’re starting off the new year in a tradition dating back years– by interviewing them so we can all get acquainted.
First up is painter and multi-media artist Colleen Hammond. Stay tuned for our next new featured member, Nancy Agati.
BH: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
CH: I think the suitable question would be when did you identify your self as an artist. To say out loud “I am an artist” was not something I felt comfortable to say out loud with confidence. Upon the encouragement of one of my art instructors I applied to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts immediately following my graduation from high school, but though I practiced and studied art, I did not know at the time what I wanted to be. Social expectations and responsibilities led to a greater focus on holding down a job, marriage, and raising a family. There came a point in my life when I became very ill, and as many do I re-evaluated my path. I chose to pursue art once again. I worked as an art director of a small community art center, and got a teaching job on the weekends. But it was getting the opportunity to be a resident artist at Cheltenham Center for the Arts that was a turning point for me in becoming and calling myself an artist.
BH: Do you believe it is necessary to attend art school to be successful? What is the most important thing you learned at PAFA?
CH: I don’t believe it is necessary to attend art school to be successful or to be considered a genuine artist. I entered PAFA right out of high school, and I was not mature enough to fully comprehend and focus on achieving the mastery offered there. Despite this I believe the most important thing I acquired was a strong foundation in observation, my painting skills and particularly in my ability to draw.
BH: How do you define success as an artist and has it changed over time?
CH: Gratefully, many things have changed over time. Being represented by a gallery would be defined as success by many artists. I would be proud and certainly see it as an accomplishment but it does not define success as an artist for me. Success is many things and it is never final. When I create, I achieve a fragment of success. Painting something that reaches beyond my intent and touches my heart, is a success. Having my work move the viewer is another and even greater success. The process of doing my work, growing and changing in my abilities and finding various and fruitful forms of expression that encourage me to continue working is being a successful artist.
BH: You are a painter and a collage artist. How do these two very different media inform your art practice?
CH: Collage allows me to experiment and create more playfully. The process of painting for me is more wrought with judgment. There is a greater fear of failure when I do a painting.
BH: Why are you drawn to clouds and old family photos in your paintings?
CH: Painting clouds is freeing. The abstract quality in painting clouds provides a greater opportunity for me to play and experiment. I am focused on color, rhythm, and atmosphere. I place less demands on myself with cloud paintings than with other genres I paint. I love the sense of mood and mystery in old family photos. I am inspired by the play of tone and light. I love the changes in color that results over time in old color photos. I have been using photos a lot as a reference over the past several years. I believe photos provide a potential for me to be less concerned with accuracy and to focus on value, form and texture in order to be more expressive and less restricted or concerned with exactness. Old photos impart less realism and provide conjectural expression.
BH: You are very generous with your time and your art — curating, hanging shows for various art centers, donating work etc, Why?
CH: Art is created to be seen and enjoyed. It can provide wonder, a connection inside oneself, and even heal. Sharing and giving someone such an experience is very gratifying to me. When I donate my work it serves as a means to support organizations and matters I feel passionate about. Though my art indirectly may deliver financial support it also provides a more personal and meaningful experience for someone. I’ve not really curated an exhibition but have done many hangings of shows. It’s a creative process and challenge that I enjoy. It is creating a setting that will provide a positive experience for the viewer and place an artist’s work in a way that will be appealing and impactful.