Written by Kevin Abdella
Many individuals would find it daunting to actively pursue multiple creative fields simultaneously. For visual artist and actress Erin Hammond, this comes quite naturally. For as long as she can remember, Erin has been an artist. “I like to say that I started in the womb,” she jests. Her artwork expresses the journey of self-discovery, a journey which she continues to this day while her work on the screen and stage serves as an outlet of inspiration to bring back to the canvas.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the oldest of seven kids, she recalls not having a lot growing up, but her parents always strove to do everything they could to support their children. Erin has been painting her whole life, so it was natural that when she completed high school she decided to major in art at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. While there she also studied and majored in her other passion, theater.
After graduating college, Erin made the decision to continue her career in Los Angeles where she currently resides. She did not find success immediately upon arrival, recounting the days of filling her Volkswagen station wagon full of her paintings and setting up at late night shows with the hopes of enticing a buyer. She never did sell any painting at these events, but it did facilitate other lasting opportunities that have shaped the career she enjoys today. At one particular event, hosted by RAW Artists, she met the owner of Artspace Warehouse in Los Angeles, Claudia Deutsch, who was enthralled by her work. Artspace Warehouse became the first venue to permanently display her work, where it can be viewed to this day. Her relationship with Deutsch has also made it possible for Erin’s art to be displayed worldwide.
The predominant subject of Erin’s current body of work is female. These pieces are innately humanist, digging into the essence of the inexpressible and transcendent moments of life. “I’m just growing as a human, [these piece are] from me/through me, and a lot of that is coming out in human form.” The works are expressions of herself, her experiences and what’s in her mind. These experiences, expressed with an austere honesty, come through in her work. Her most honest pieces are the ones that viewers are most responsive to, noted Erin. “My subject right now is women, to be shown in the raw form of who we are, and that we are all different,” she says.
When asked about the influence of Kathe Kollwitz on her work, Hammond said, “Her prints, her paintings, they just get my heart … I feel her pieces.” Kathe Kollwitz (b. 1867) was a German-born artist who experienced much tragedy and hardship in her lifetime. Kollwitz work, similar to Hammonds, expresses raw human experience that is both worldly and transcendent. Often, the struggles of life overtake the dreams of many, but for Erin the necessity of overcoming struggle is absolute, even if “you are going through hell…you continue to work through it, continue to do your dream … it’s hard, and I know that.” Erin and Kollwitz innately understand and express the universal experience of struggle in their work. “I’m very thankful that I am here,” Erin quietly expresses.
Struggle also connects art to Erin’s other passion, acting. It has been a constant back and forth between the two for her entire life. Balancing the two has been difficult at times, and yet one always manages to serve the other. When intuition informs her to step away from her artwork, Erin inevitably turns to acting. She finds that working on a character or scene often subconsciously bleeds its way into her artwork, and vice versa, “I get a lot of ideas for painting when I write and when I read scripts. They both help me.” These two pursuits also create opportunities for one another. Many times someone has viewed one of her paintings, looked her up and wound up casting her for a part in a production. Conversely, she may be working in film or on stage and, when it’s found that she is an artist, her artwork will be often be included in some way. Though she exist in these two contrasting fields, Erin finds a way to seamlessly connect them with a virtuosic ease.
You can meet Erin Hammond and view her most recent work at her upcoming show Meaningless Methods. It will be held at Blank Spaces in Santa Monica on October 20th.