Studio Visit: Patrick Earl Hammie, 27, of Champaign

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Studio Visit: Patrick Earl Hammie, 27, of Champaign

Q: When did you arrive here to join the UI's School of Art and Design?

A: Four months ago. My girlfriend and I found a house to rent in Champaign across from Hessel Park. I came here from the East Coast; I lived in Connecticut and South Carolina equally.

Q: Why did you come here?

A: I was at the University of Connecticut teaching as an adjunct and working up at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, doing a fellowship in studio art.

I really wanted to start to teach full time. I've been teaching since I was 9, in martial arts. I got my black belt then in tae kwon do. I've loved it ever since because I'm able to share with others.

I started applying for jobs, came out here for an interview, and really enjoyed the people I met in the department and what they're doing, and their focus on research. And they really help their junior faculty try to establish themselves as artists. They give you the time to do that in the first five years.

Q: When did you start making art?

A: If you call scribbling art, I started making art when I was 3 or 4. I was good at a few things – martial arts, singing and art.

Q: When and why did you start doing large paintings of male nudes?

A: It originated from a very personal experience – my father's passing away in 1999. Because of that and my minor in psychology in college I later started thinking about how I had to be so emotionally intractable. I had taken on the typical masculine behaviors of being kind of closed off and being selfless for my mother and in other family matters.

I began asking questions of myself as to why I reacted in these ways and I began to look outward at other ways that these typical masculine traits manifest themselves in the world.

I started deducing all these sets of behavior typically associated with masculinity like aggression, power and intractability. I started seeing how these can be the roots of many issues we have today – colonization, xenophobia, aggression, war, control, power.

I began to visualize these in my series of self-portraits, 'Imperfect Colossi.' For those paintings, I began pulling on my flesh, literally. I began to try to manipulate my own body and to visualize the effort to transform, to try to break this facade of strength.

I see these paintings as a narrative. They're like a story or metaphor in my search for discovery or a new identity. I feel this is not an isolated journey. I'm not here to tell others what to think; I'm here to share my journey.

In this age of post-civil rights, post-second wave of feminism, I think men are looking at how to re-imagine themselves and to fit into the world. Many are not. I'm trying through my work to speak to all of them.

Q: You don't often seen paintings of male nudes.

A: No, you don't. And in the history of art, the male nude is usually represented as an intelligent, stoic figure. They're typically doing something. The female nude is usually an object to be gazed upon.

I felt that in the history of art the male and his complexities as well as the black man and all his complexities have not been fully explored. I love how in the '60s and '70s you had artists like Betye Saar and Barkley L. Hendricks begin presenting African-Americans in art as iconic and complex and really beginning that conversation about how African-Americans are seen in the world.

Q: Are you represented here by any galleries?

A: Not currently. That's my next order of business. I do have an exhibition coming up in January at the Purdue Galleries. All 14 of these large canvases from my last two series, "Imperfect Colossi' and 'Equivalent Exchange,' will be on display.

(That show, "Patrick Earl Hammie: Platforms" will be on view Jan. 11 through Feb. 21 at the Stewart Center Gallery and will be presented in collaboration with Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette and the Purdue Black Cultural Center. To see more of Hammie's work, visit online http://patrickearlhammie.com/.)

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