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Recent works: Henry Hammond

Elliot Bailey, A&E Editor
Originally published January 23, 2015

“Untitled.” Henry Hammond. Acrylic paint.

When he first came to me with his self portrait, he described it as pessimistic. What first stands out, however, is not a sense of pessimism, but an amalgam of animal and human — what does it mean?

“This was a lot different from what I usually do,” freshman artist Henry Hammond said. “I usually just sketch — just pens, pencils, not a lot of color.”

Hammond typically favors the moods of black and gray he gets from pencil and pen. In that vein, he uses percussive reds and golds in Untitled to convey higher frequency feelings of anticipation.

The painting is based on a photo Hammond took of himself, with a lamp directed at his face.

“I like the idea of the light kind of shining right in the face — it kind of seems like there’s something special out there,” Hammond said. “I was uncomfortable, but I really like the photograph that I based the picture off of.”

Then, the beak.

“I wanted to show some inner emotion through some outer physical thing, so I chose the bird beak, because I thought it represented ambition,” Hammond said. “The imagery of flying up in the sky, that really connected with what I wanted in the painting.”

But then it becomes an obvious inadequacy: He’s still a boy and boys with beaks can’t fly.

Hammond’s self portrait is anxious. Ambition, like all forms of expectation, is an appendage to a person. It’s something palpable — a present hope — denoting something that is not — a future that hasn’t become real yet.

Hammond sees himself transformed when he looks to the future, but the fact that beyond this beak, an appendage of ambition, he’s otherwise a boy, flightless by nature, suggests an anxiety about the road between his ambition and the future he vies for.

“The bird beak is a representation of my potential, and that it’s on me represents that I haven’t accessed all of it,” Hammond said. “It represents that I haven’t transformed into what I could be.”

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Recent works: Henry Hammond