Craft Studio coordinator Kelsey Hammond embraces body image

Kelsey Hammond is also organizing the 2015 Women in the Arts gallery at the Craft Studio.

Kelsey Hammond takes nude self-portraits.

Though occasionally criticized by those who don’t understand the objective of her art, she brushes it off to focus on herself and her work at hand.

She said her work is about trying to align two parts of herself, which she describes as the “outside Kelsey” and the “inside Kelsey.”

“The ‘outside Kelsey’ is a large person who sometimes feels bad about walking through the world because it’s not modeled back to me that it’s okay to be this size,” Hammond said. “And the ‘inside Kelsey’ feels pretty good about herself. So I don’t want, when I’m in my outside space, to feel bad about myself.”

Through her work, Hammond wants others to look at her art and start thinking about their own bodies.

Hammond began taking self-portraits in 2004 and she has continued her work at MU, where she has worked at the MSA/GPC Craft Studio for eight years. Now she is its coordinator and occasionally shows her art in the studio.

The first time she displayed her nude self-portraits was at her thesis showing at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in February 2007. This was also when she was first criticized for it.

While there, Hammond said a woman was looking at the photos and made a comment about her “belly flap.”

Hammond said when she has shown her work at the Craft Studio, vandals have written “pornography” on the glass windows, and people in the building have complained. But that doesn’t stop her from showing her art.

She said she sees pornography and art as different things, even if some people don’t see it that way.

“I’m trying to make art,” Hammond said. “There are no crude acts in what I’m doing. It hardly ever shows anything other than a breast. It’s mostly body and flesh.”

She said joining the “outside Kelsey” and the “inside Kelsey” so they are both centered is what her art is about.

“The act of actually photographing myself is what sort of synthesizes those two parts,” Hammond said. “It’s like a meditative time when I can really spend time with my body.”

Hammond said her work isn’t essentially a feminist movement, but she is a feminist and that translates into her work.

While moving through the world, Hammond said, people are becoming less aware of their bodies, which she related to taking selfies.

“I love the idea of a selfie, but I don’t love the idea of a selfie when it’s not you,” Hammond said. “When you’re doing it and presenting a side of yourself that isn’t integrated with who you are or how you really feel. It should be both. If you’re shooting that picture but it’s never how you feel, then that’s the part that needs to get integrated.”

This is how she views her own work.

“It just has to get back to being about my physical self, and I tend to ignore my body,” Hammond said. “Photographing myself is kind of like spending that time at the gym, that you are just for your body because it feels good to move, and when your muscles are active, you feel that sense of ‘I’m alive, this is me experiencing myself.’”

Hammond is currently organizing the 2015 Women in the Arts show at MU, which highlights women artists like herself.

This year marks the 22nd year that the Women in the Arts exhibit has been held. It will be at the Craft Studio from March 2-20, with a reception March 12.

Hammond said she has close ties to this exhibit because she studied art history when she was an undergraduate student, focusing mostly on marginalized artists.

“We’ve done this show to really give voices to women whose work you won’t necessarily get to see elsewhere,” Hammond said. “It’s competitive out there in the art world, so to have a space that’s just for women artists is really important. It’s important to keep that space alive and well and just to honor the fact that women artists are still underrepresented as far as being in art galleries and museums.”

For the show, Danielle Langdon, assistant professor of art at Columbia College, will be the juror. She will judge the work that’s submitted. The submissions can be art of any medium, from ceramics to painting, photography to sculpture.

Langdon said that serving as the juror meant reviewing and evaluating all the submitted artwork in order to select those that will be included in the exhibit.

“The artwork in this show will help influence all other artists, no matter their gender,” she said. “There is a vast array of media areas represented and the level of craft and consideration in each piece is worthy of admiration by any artist or maker.”

Langdon said all galleries showcasing the work of artists are an important attribute to the art world and that the exchanges between local artists and their neighbors help a community thrive, foster creativity and strengthen the economy.

“The artwork in this show will help bring people together regardless of ethnicity, religion, age or gender,” Langdon said.

She sees this show as an overall celebration of women in the visual fine arts.

“Even in the year 2015, there is still an imbalance of gender representation within the arts,” Langdon said. “However, there are many women artists making a very strong place for themselves, and I think this show, and others like it, are helping to showcase that.”

Hammond said this year the Craft Studio had more work submitted than any other year she has been involved with the show.

There’s a mix of students and non-students, and though traditionally a regional show of work from the Columbia area, this is the second year that the show has been made national by accepting work from artists from other areas of the country.

The work selected for Women in the Arts doesn't have to be reflective of the artists’ experiences as women, but that is what fuels Hammond.

“The work about my body is about my experience of being a woman,” she said. “But it doesn’t have to be true for anyone else. I always joke about how it doesn’t have to be a ‘vagina show.’ It can be about whatever you make.”

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