A Conversation with Artist Sharla Hammond
It definitely isn’t by chance that Houston-based artist Sharla Hammond fell into the creation of functional art. From her Pink Ladies, Afro Blue and Basquiat Throne series of furniture, it’s clear that Hammond is inherently gifted with the ability to make the mundane pop. The question is, should you sit on the loveseat, or just look at it? Whichever you decide, be sure to keep on reading to learn more about Sharla Hammond, her creative use of color, images of modern icons, femininity and more. What were some of your earliest inspirations for the art you create today?
I can attribute my grandmother to introducing me to art, as an artist herself, I would watch her draw figures, animals, and flowers in nearly every moment I spent with her. I would mimic her often and eventually began venturing out into subject matter that interested me — drawing comics a la Archie. All of my work definitely has its unique phases. My immediate background in art is painting, portraiture more specifically. People I know, admire, and sometimes would create off imagination served as a basis for the majority of my work. Nearly all of these people are of color.
On your website you say you enjoy “putting art on anything but stretched canvas these days.” What drew you to make functional art, particularly furniture?
The idea came to me this time last year, I was going through a spell where I was not creating any work. It is that annoying phase artist can go through where wanting to get out creative ideas and actually executing it falls flat. I was driving around Houston with a good friend and fellow artist, Nakeya Brown, sharing with her a novelty idea of painting on jackets to sell on Etsy- a crafty, side hustle for a broke college student. While explaining my idea, we just so happened to be driving past an upholstery shop when I thought what a tight idea it would be to have my work on furniture. Zing! It was like a lightbulb went off and immediately I was excited. The idea stuck with me and I felt it deserved to be investigated more. From that point, I dedicated my time to learning the steps I would need to take in order to make this come into fruition.
What purpose does your art serve for you as a young black woman?
This is such an exciting, challenging, and active time for me in my life right now. My art is consistent in the way that I constantly create black women as my subject matter. My muses are women that I look up to, that I aspire to emulate and evolve more into. My art for me is satisfying — such a satisfying feeling being able to convey how I feel and articulate it in my artwork. Being able to view my work as a timeline of my growth is very therapeutic. Being able to connect with other awesome black women artists has been phenomenal! The affirmations and connections I have gained through this has done something wonderful for my esteem and inspires me constantly. I feel this is so powerful and helps me continue to learn and challenge myself through my work.
You’ve also displayed some of your wheat paste artwork throughout Houston, Austin and New Orleans. For those who don’t know, can you explain what wheat pasting is?
Wheatpasting is a great way to showcase your art, like your very own outdoor gallery (and way more effective in my opinion). Wheatpaste itself is a type of glue one makes with boiling water, flour, and sugar. It is used primarily in the street art scene when pasting up images, flyers, and art outside on walls — brick, wood, and the like. It can be a messy ordeal, but well worth it once dry! I began wheatpasting in 2013 and since then, I’ve made it a case in point to do it at least once a month. There is a great community of wheatpaste artists and I find it super cool once I became more familiar with the other artists. It’s also addictive! And without a permit its illegal, luckily, the neighborhoods I frequent to wheatpaste are all for it, so I advise anyone whose does it, to scout out your place wisely and bring a lookout. That’s where the thrill comes in.
From your choice of color to the focus on notable women in your work, would you say your art, from furniture to fashion, is rooted in the feminine?
Absolutely, I create work that resonates personally with me. Color wise, I find pastels to be absolutely poppin on brown skin — I love the contrasts and plan to keep this as a constant in my art-making. Along with this, the women I choose as my subjects, are women that I look up to personally. Most notably, the blue sofa I created was inspired by the John Coltrane song, “Afro Blue.” I wanted it to serve as a celebration of black women icons, Betty Davis, Angela Davis, Minnie Riperton, Diana Ross, and Pam Grier. My pink loveseat, “Pink Ladies”, was my take of the 80’s book series Sweet Valley High. As a young girl, I was always drawn to the books because of the book cover designs alone. I loved the fun, new wave patterns and bright pastel colors. Never having seen a black girl grace the book cover, and I doubt there were ever plans for that to happen, I wanted to reinterpret that aesthetic with brown faces. My work is rooted in the feminine and its an extension of me. My process can be very meticulous at one time, and at other times it’s just a stream of consciousness. The more I create, the more I am finding my unique voice. I can say now, that in whatever I do, I will leave my distinct mark on it.
What famous faces can we expect to see pop up in your future projects?
Definitely working on more furniture to share this Summer, but the subjects are not to be disclosed just yet! As far as wheatpasting goes, Dorothy Dandridge is my next favorite lady I plan to draw. I want to focus my work on special people I know personally as well. Family, friends, and lovers who have made an impact on my life — I want to celebrate them around the city of Houston and other places I travel.
Visit Sharla Hammond’s Official Website