Since completing her MFA at UW-Madison in 1977, versatile artist Jane Hammond has risen to international acclaim, garnered endowments and grants, and seen her work displayed in many of the world's most prestigious museums. Despite this increasing renown, Hammond has effectively avoided confinement to a signature style.
"I didn't want to be the person who makes the Jane Hammonds," she says with a shrug. "There were so many things I wanted to do, and I didn't want to give 80% of it up."
Hammond's diverse and passionate interests have found expression in sculpture, photography, multimedia work and painting. Jane Hammond: Paper Work, at the Chazen Museum of Art, reflects the artist's commitment to complexity within one of her chosen media. Though Hammond works with a lexicon of 276 specific images - what she calls a "Semiotic Genome Project" for its DNA-like recombinant potential - this restriction seems to have allowed, or even forced, her body of work to branch in wildly varied directions. Paper Work includes photographs, books, lithographs, collage and even a set of three-dimensional clown suits, all informed by Hammond's personal lexicon and infused with intricate allusions. Her pieces have an air of elegant free association, a mixture of interconnectivity and serendipitous chance.
This quality makes scrapbooks a natural vehicle for Hammond, and those included in Paper Work are stunning. Delicate Victorian stationery, 1950s paper dolls and fortune-cookie slips are combined - often with humorous and poignant effects - to lend each book the air of an eccentric archive.
"From the Goose to the Girl," Hammond's exquisitely detailed take on a 19th-century French game board, exemplifies much of her painted work with its intriguing and eerie charm. Large-scale maps like "All Souls ( Masindi)" and "All Souls (Cordoba)," clustered with meticulous paper butterflies, reveal Hammond's talent for juxtaposition by reflecting political upheaval via natural beauty.
Hammond sees her work as discursive, unfolding spontaneously but coherently. "It's like a conversation," she says of her method. "We never know where a conversation is going to go, yet all of us know how to do it." In Paper Work, Jane Hammond's exploration of this process is clearly and beautifully apparent.
Jane Hammond: Paper Work, Chazen Museum of Art, through Aug. 12