Harmony Hammond was a leading figure in the feminist art movement of the 1970s in New York and the preeminent voice for lesbian artists during this period. She made hybrid painting-sculptures that combined paint and mixed-media. In early works she used found objects and discarded materials such as straw, hair, buckets, and burnt wood. Recently she produced bronze sculptures, digital prints, and near-monochrome paintings that addressed abstraction, as well as queer and feminist themes.
After moving to New York from the Midwest in 1969, she became an ardent feminist and came out as a lesbian. In 1972, she cofounded the all-women’s A.I.R. Gallery, the first women’s cooperative art gallery in New York. In 1976 she co-founded the Heresies Collective.
In the early 1970s, Hammond moved away from the male-dominant traditions of painting in which she had been trained. She used “rags” (as opposed to the term “textiles”) to make her “Presences” which resembled heavily draped female figures suspended from clothes hangers. In 1974, she showed “Floorpieces,” handmade braided circular rag rugs, on which she created colorful abstract paintings that she deemed to be lesbian in content. She thought of them as paintings and placed them directly on the floor, questioning the “place” of rug hooking, knitting, and sewing which were routinely dismissed as merely domestic activities.
Hammond began to explore textures and patterns, working the medium like relief in her “Weave Paintings” from 1973-1977. Her works were covered by a monochromatic layer of “skin” which she would cut away to reveal colors underneath. Such works as her 1974 “Pink Weave” and 1976 lozenge-shaped “Black Leaf” were made with this layering technique.
Between 1977 and 1984 Hammond made her “Wrapped Sculptures,” her best-known works. She covered wooden armatures in cloth and coated them with rubber or latex. Sometimes they were sprinkled with glitter but felt both robust yet vulnerable. One work is her 1981 massive, black rubberized “Kong,” a giant four-fingered hand which is affixed to a wall in a grotesque and menacing way.
In 1984, Hammond moved to Galisteo, New Mexico and has lived there ever since. And it was in New Mexico where she produced her most monumental works. She began with a group of assemblages, made from rusted, corrugated metal that would have been found in rural towns or rough urban settings. In 2000, the year in which she wrote the definitive text “Lesbian Art in America,” her work turned more abstract. She produced various monochromatic series, made from used fabrics, burlap, and even tatami maps. She put grommeted fabric onto the surfaces in a grid pattern as seen in her 2011-2012 “Cinch 1” and in her 2013 “Rib.”
Her very recent “Near Monochromes” and “Chenilles” continue her use of the body as metaphor in her art. Her 2008-2011 “Flap,” was made with oil paint and mixed-media to build up the surface. A horizontal seam runs through the center, again suggesting the topography of the female body
She has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation among others. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 2014. In 2019, Hammond was given her first museum survey at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut.