Layers of Human Experience 2021

Cameron Barker

On viewing Lorie Hamermesh’s recent monoprints, it becomes apparent how the themes of her work are enmeshed within the process in which they are created. The use of veils and layers has been ever present in her work, but this exhibition offers a profound clarity into vulnerability, stemming from Hamermesh’s psychological exploration of self. Reflecting on her previous shows at Gallery NAGA, symbols of domestic unease and childhood innocence were there, but hidden, tucked away within heavy impasto, collage, or sheer fabric scrims. Desire/Shame uses the layering methods of mono printing to confront these themes head on with unapologetic transparency.

The dichotomy of Desire/Shame resonates with Hamermesh’s monoprint process: where painterly watercolor transfers collide with delicate chine-collé, finely incised drypoint marks, and boldly textured carborundum. In MeToo, a figure in cool blue tones, perhaps de-anonymizing the objectified nudes of Yves Klein, is offset by a black carborundum contour in the form of a dress with multiple arms and hands. The direct gaze of the figure imbues power, yet the hands introduce an internal/external struggle between protection and exposure of the body. Hamermesh is not offering answers to trauma, but instead encourages conversation that explores visually, the complex ways trauma is brought to light.

Viewers may notice the same figures appearing in multiple works. Through repetition, Hamermesh positions and repositions the figure as individual and concept.

Historically, especially within western canon, the female nude has been used as symbol, rarely depicting an actual being. Hamermesh re-organizes this symbolism to show the lived consequences of objectification. Shhh introduces the figure found in MeToo, but zoomed in on the upper half of the body. Her gaze is again direct but disrupted by burning red carborundum hands. This effect has been achieved by strategically under-wiping the plate, resulting in a red aura forming around the line contour. The carborundum plate leaves a deep impression in the paper and consequently the figure. Signifiers of lasting touch are palpable and show Hamermesh’s expertise in using mixed printing methods.

In recognizing common visual threads in the work, it is impressive to see the different intentions of each piece. Hamermesh transcends a multitude of ideas with repeated imagery. Anxiety and USA 2020 share a common visual dialogue, yet express two very different themes. Anxiety shows a floral dress bodice, resonating with topics of stolen innocence or girlhood, behind clutching arms, the plate is triple printed charging it with an anxious dissonance and vibration. The floral patterned dress can be seen through the arms, their transparency alluding to an X-ray or invasion. USA 2020 has a similar composition, yet uses bold dripping red and white opaque stripes, reminiscent of the American flag, and expressing the collective national tension of 2020, a year of extreme hardships brought on by police brutality and racial injustice, a dishonest president who lead an attack on our democracy and a worldwide pandemic.

Most of Lorie’s work can be considered figurative, but works such as House on Fire and Loss explore the absence of the figure. The dress is used in these pieces to morph with space, transcending both past and present. There is a dreamlike quality, where the components exists and fade into the grounds of the picture plane. The garment in Loss is more of an absence than actual form, surrounded by a dense atmosphere created by the handmade chine-collé paper and miasmic, watercolor rain. House on Fire uses the destructive element of the blaze as a connecting point between the floating specter of a dress and a distant burning home, a symbol broken from its associations of security and comfort.

Desire and shame: layers that find themselves both separate and unyieldingly pressed together in human experience. Lorie Hamermesh grants the viewer an opportunity to look into these complicated and sometimes painful themes with beauty and a sense of compassion. The work is a reminder that the swinging pendulum of opposing feelings may not have to be feared, but can be investigated and shared with generosity and open arms.

Cameron Barker

USA, 2020, Carborundum, watercolor, dry point, 29.5 x 30 inches.