The Curatorial Department at the National Museum of Women in the Arts is thrilled to unveil the colossal sculpture Hunkertime by New Mexico artist Harmony Hammond. Spanning over 23 feet in NMWA’s recently opened 3rd floor sculpture gallery, Hunkertime, composed of 9 stocky, ladder-like forms wrapped in thick layers of painted fabric, is a prime example of Hammond’s “wrapped sculptures” of the late 70s and early 80s. The wrapped structures “hunker” together, leaning on each other in a manner that suggests community and dialogue, which Hammond considers vital to feminist practice.
A pioneer of the feminist art, Hammond began working in New York in the 1970s when the feminist art movement began to take root. Meeting regularly with a group of women interested in the interconnectedness of gender and art, Hammond began to view artistic medium and processes as vital, meaning-making expressions of gender in art. Hammond and her colleagues discussed how “materials such as fabric and thread, and connective processes referencing the needle arts (stitching, weaving, braiding, knotting, and piecing), previously undervalued and devalued for their associated with women, took on new meanings.” In Hunkertime, the layers of fabric covering the underlying wooden armatures are composed of old rags and clothes collected from her friends. She notes: “It meant that I was literally putting all these women in the work.”
In addition to referencing women’s traditional artistic practices, Hammond’s use of fabric serves as a commentary on the deplorable working conditions of immigrant women employed by the garment industry in Lower Manhattan, where Hammond lived and worked. “Every night the end cuts of bolts of knit fabric were thrown out in dumpsters to be carted away as waste. Using this discarded fabric to ‘make something out of nothing,’ I was able to reference the women working in the sweatshops and myself—a woman and an artist in a capitalist patriarchal culture—with what I called an ‘aesthetic of survival.’”
Hunkertime is generously on loan to NMWA for one year from historian and arts activist Dr. Elizabeth A. Sackler, founder of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The Sackler Center is the permanent home of “The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago, honoring women’s contributions in all fields throughout history. Lectures and panel discussions about feminist art, theory and activism take place in the Center’s Forum, and featured exhibitions are held in its Feminist Art and Herstory galleries.
About the author: Raphael Sikorra is curatorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.