Thekla Hammond is a masterful painter who cares deeply about the world around her and whose imagery imparts richly nuanced and intelligent narratives. Her vision transcends the purely physical. With intuitive color patterns and subtle layering techniques, Hammond leads the viewer gradually into stillness and quiet emotion and to find space and peace in the work.
Hammond holds B.A. and M.F.A. degrees from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an M.A. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has recently exhibited at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the Napa Valley Museum, Cal Arts in Valencia, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Richmond Art Center.
Thirteen Ways of Looking
Strength, stability, courage, resoluteness, spirit. These are characteristics associated with the word backbone. We’re told to stand up straight. We believe that people with backbone have character. In time, we come to understand that a strong backbone is not rigid, but includes flexibility and grace. In the visual language of painting, the image of a backbone can expand the expressive possibilities of the word. Meaning is layered so that the exploration of the image is at once personal and universal, powerful and fragile, comprehensible and mysterious. ~ Thekla Hammond
Thekla Hammond pays homage to Wallace Steven’s poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, by painting thirteen ways of looking at a backbone. The series develops a painterly narrative about seeing, making an image, and creating a metaphor. It seeks to address Steven’s dilemma about which to prefer, “The beauty of inflections/Or the beauty of innuendoes.”
Mettle means spirit, especially as regards honor or fortitude, words we relate to the backbone. In the paintings Mettle No. 3 and Mettle No. 4 and Mettle No. 8 the image is set in an epic landscape. Nature and backbones both connote strength, seem permanent, but both are subject to misuse, erosion, failure. The spine floats over the horizon, imposed and imposing, painted onto the surface of the landscape. Questions of scale become inevitable, for instance, how do we view the relationship between the size of a human backbone and the spine of a mountain range?
In Water Bones, the four basic elements become both the source and the context for the spine. The principles of our physical universe unite with the mainstay of our human physical being. Multiple images begin to suggest movement as a source of our strength.
The power of paint, the magic of causing an image to emerge from the pigment itself, is much the central subject of Lissom 3. In this painting the process makes the vision at once more defined and more abstract. The vertebrae are fewer but larger, and can be seen to be flexible and supple, nimble and agile.
Holding it Lightly
Hammond evokes ethereal, dreamlike spaces in her recent body of atmospheric paintings, Holding It Lightly. In Hope, Tenderness, Grace and Solace, she addresses issues of tension and balance; and the formal relationship of line to form, of surface to deep space, of drawing to color, of structure to mark-making. These dramatic works suggest sky, ocean, and celestial images in a wondrous palette of passionate color.
A Full Life Story
Thekla Hammond: “The opening image in Jim Crace’s novel Harvest began to haunt me. There is a fire, seen from a distance, on a cold, frosty autumn day. The fire and the smoke are both beautiful and ominous, and they signal the end of the way of life for people living on a manor in medieval England. I wanted to paint this image, to see it and to explore its meaning. The exploration embraced the seemingly contrary and opposite characteristics that comprise a full life story: beauty and ugliness, safety and danger, passion and reserve, good and evil, sacred and profane, love and hate, life and death.”