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The Worst Perversion

In His Bold Gaze My Ruin Is Writ Large

The Right Man And The Wrong Woman

Getting Daddy Do It for You

4/sometimes murder


Interview with
Jane Hammond

Interview with
David Salle


Interview with Jane Hammond


Josefina Ayerza

Devil-lived, murder-redrum...
Reversed, letters count numbers. Divided by other numbers they build recombinative structures; a lexicon, a system. Structures collected, organized, classified, may be thought about in terms of type; trafficking back and forth between the known and the unknown, something, a kind of subtext to the painting, is born.

Perhaps outside in the world, perceived inside, a lexicon relates to visual things, makes reference to sound... yet it holds within some kind of contradiction; something is muffled, unable to come out, inaccessible. This something leaks into the paintings like a stain. . . it's playful. . . a reference about speaking is like a sound or a smell.

The scene takes on a kind of life of its own: she's in a man's world, he's like a listener that isn't listening. A big black shadow equals threatening. The genuine thrill escapes the lexicon. These images have lives in other paintings, and they make stories of parts of stories, over and over again, for fixed moments of time. She may be overpowered by the forces she unleashes, feel helpless and hide, but then the painting dissolves and becomes another painting-a cosmology, a legend, a key.

Memory and recollection operate all the senses, and language. Tones of voice can work that way, visual things can work that way; the head is specifically disengaged from the body. A body chooses to speak through another body. Painting is a living language. The whole body of work has this kind of recombinative structure. In the final analysis the meaning of nothing is that fixed. . .

Excerpts of a conversation with the artist

JH - From the outset this painting was about female sexual fantasy...

JA - Where is the sexual fantasy here? What's going on?

JH - In this image of the woman and the octopus she is holding, well, there's the spark, the process and the interchange between the two, then it becomes something else. But my spark, my entry point on this, the sand inside the cultured pearl, was playing with an image of intense sexual pleasure. This woman is having a relationship with this eight-armed creature...!

JA - So the case is the many arms...?

JH - Arms and the suction cups and the whole, the wetness... and there is this other woman holding this image: an image of an image, a play within a play, a story within a story... female sexual fantasy.

JA - So the octopus. . . is it the man? Is there a man in this painting?

JH - No, there's not a man, in this painting there's an octopus...

JA - Would the octopus be her sex?

JH - The octopus is her lover.

JA - What we see is the pleasure of the lover, if the octopus is the lover.

JH - She's the pleasured one in my mind.

JA - But we see the octopus...

JH - At work.

JA - We only see her head, we don't see her body.

JH - I see her body.

JA - Where is it?

JH - I see her vagina, her breasts, her mouth... I see her body, there.

JA - Then the octopus is also her, I see the breast, I see it now. ..

JH - She's a whole woman, naked and lying down surrounded by this octopus.

JA - There seems to be one octopus in her mouth and one in her sex.

JH - Yes. . . I made a painting of something that I think is an intense sexual experience from the woman's point of view. There's no man in this painting. About the other woman, she is making this body gesture that I always make when I describe my paintings to someone. She's holding it in lieu of having a body . . . it is her body. I think this is about the eroticism of painting... Furthermore, she's speaking another way, she's speaking through this other thing, this other being; in this case it's this cloth.

JA - This intense enjoyment seems separated from her. . . the painting standing for another body, where is the enjoyment occurring?

JH - It's about the painting as a body, as skin, as a medium through which the body has another kind of presence in the world. When I was painting the lips red it was like putting lipstick on.

JA - It sounds like a dream. . .

JH - That igloo painting I made directly out of a dream I had. You know I lived for a number of years with an Asian man. . . nowadays people have all this business about the self and the Other... but as I was saying, if you live with someone, you spend a lot more time looking at that person than you do looking at yourself, and I think you connect their physical appearance with your inner self. .. Imagine what it would be like to spend your life with someone in a time before mirrors. You wouldn't even know what your own face looked like. You would only have a strange perception of your own body, and you would know this other face and this other body extremely well; the boundaries between you and them would be extremely complex. It wouldn't be this I and this body versus this I and this body. When I was living with this person, I frequently had dreams in which I was Asian. I think this is because I was living this life of having this psychic existence and looking at this other person... I'm kind of mixing up the two people.

JA - How long did it take you to become Asian?

JH - A few years I guess. In this dream I was painting and I was really tired from working, so much so that I was sleeping on the floor in my studio; this other person came in, and he was revivifying me. In this dream I was being revivified with hummingbird fluid. I made the painting about this kind of feeding and interchange between these two people. Actually the substance was sweet, life-giving, nutritious, revivifying...

JA - This is what the little bottle contains?

Hammond image JH - Yes, now people have said to me, oh I saw your abortion painting! . . . oh I saw the painting with the blood!... oh its such a scary painting!... I certainly understand that no one is going to look at that painting in terms of my specific dream content.. .

JA - It's quite impressive how the legs seem to be disappearing into pockets. . .

JH - There's also a relationship between the igloo and the woman's genitalia, and between the igloo as a model for a room or a house or a domicile for being inside.

JA - A flower is being fed, or being controlled. . . I would say this flower is being controlled by the man, through this little bottle...

JH - I think the big attraction of sex is that you give up control . Now if you decide to give up control and you put someone else in the controlling position, who is in control? I think the woman in this painting is receiving a great deal of pleasure, which she wants to have. . . the man is not doing something to her that she doesn't want done, but I'm aware that the painting has that scary edge to it. ..

Hammond image

JA - What about these two women in this other painting ?

JH - Many people refer to this painting as the one with the lesbians, it's owned by a couple. The woman calls it the lesbian painting, the man adamantly defends the idea that they are a heterosexual couple. And this argument that these people have back and forth may be as much about them as it is about my painting. Maybe the painting is about drawing a circle around these possibilities. It's not about one possibility, it doesn't settle out like that, it keeps going.

JA - In this other painting there's a third person...

JH - You can see that painting as a couple and a person engaged with himself, as a couple and a person responding to them, and as three people involved in one act. He could be painting, he could be whipping himself...


Jane Hammond:

detail from Untitled (216, 63, 217) oil on canvas, 1990
detail from Untitled (35, 118, 146) oil on canvas, 1990
detail from Untitled (227,174,229) oil on linen, 1990

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