Things Hollis Hammonds is Obsessed with:
1. Japanese Manga
2. Post Apocalyptic Narratives
3. Superhero Movies
4. Really Bad Action/Armageddon Films.
“I love seeing the explosions,” she says, leaning over the bar counter, peering around and smiling at me. Professor and chair of visual studies at St Edwards University in Austin, Texas: but with her black pageboy, smoke-colored glasses and clear gaze, Hollis Hammonds could be a character in one of her manga adventures.
A mad professor, an evil genius, doing what she can to reimagine the materialistic world.
In real life, Hammonds has 11 full-time faculty members, and “I don’t even know how many part-time members.” Although she teaches three classes a day and for a time also ran a gallery, she shows constantly. She’s had 10 solo shows all around the country just in the past two years. “I tend to be more productive in shorter blocks.”
We’re at Closed for Business on a steamy Sunday- on Mother’s Day, in fact, although as I write this, I realize I neglected to ask her if she has any children. (She doesn’t, although she does have a dog.)
“Can I get something really light and crisp?” she says. “I tend to like Chinese or Japanese beer.” The bartender amiably sets her up with a tulip of Hitachino. I order a Chocolate Rye Porter.
“I have a couple manifestations of the work,” she says. “Primarily, though, I draw. These piles, islands of objects.”
It started in April of 2011, when more than 200 tornadoes broke over the United States in a four day period. Watching coverage, Hammonds became interested in how “we, as viewers, are interested in the aftermath of both man-made and natural disasters.”
Also drawing on the aftermath of the house fire she experienced herself as a teenager, she began making charcoal sketches on white paper: “Dystopian, futuristic, kind of dark but seductive.”
“Destruction is seductive,” I say. “We’re drawn to what destroys us.” Chocolate rye, you’ll be the death of me.
So her work started as “documentation, homage. Of course, now I’ve turned it into this indulgent fascination with materialistic consumption. My father was born in the 1920s, my mother in the 1930s. So they hoarded everything. I mean, we had an entire room dedicated to plastic containers. They could not throw anything away.”
I’ve seen Hoarders. I asked if animal carcasses were ever found amidst the containers.
“That’s the defining line, isn’t it?” Hammonds said.
For the rest of the story, visit the Redux blog.
Pauline West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is a Library Journal Self-e Selection, winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
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