Profile: Patrick Earl Hammie (1981-)

Patrick Earl Hammie is an American visual artist and educator best known for his large-scale portrait and nude paintings of allegorical subjects. Hammie’s paintings emphasize movement, color, and sensuality, drawing from art history and visual culture to examine ideas related to cultural identity, masculinity, beauty, and sexuality. Hammie lives in Champaign, where he currently works as an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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Early life and education

Hammie was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and raised in West Haven, to mother Carolyn (née Harrison), a retired switchboard operator, and father Ervin Hammie Jr., a Vietnam War veteran, foreman, and gravedigger. As a child, Hammie took up martial arts and was nationally ranked in his category by the North American Sports Karate Association. He developed an interest in visual arts when he began drawing characters from comic books and television shows. Hammie’s parents supported him in both areas, bringing him to karate tournaments and encouraging him to expand his drawings to include still lives and landscapes. At age nine, Hammie relocated with his parents to Hartsville, South Carolina. His parents separated when he was thirteen and he returned with his father to Connecticut to attend West Haven High School, where he played football and performed in the choir. Hammie’s father died in 1999, shortly after Hammie’s high school graduation.

After high school, Hammie attended Coker College and studied studio art, where he received a BA in 2004. Hammie freelanced as a portrait painter for two years before returning to New England to study at the University of Connecticut, where he received his MFA in 2008.

Influences

Hammie has stated on several occasions visual artists that have influenced his artistic career. He cites Francis Bacon, Luís Caballero, Caravaggio, Renée Cox, Marlene Dumas, Lucien Freud, Leon Golub, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Kerry James Marshall as some of his favorite artists.

Art

Hammie’s use of scale, expression, and emotive subject matter recalls the painterly gestures of the Baroque and Romantic periods. His style has been compared to that of Rubens. Hammie’s oeuvre is defined by his ongoing engagement with the history of painting, in particular his use of allegory to implicate power structures, question systems of racism and sexism, and examine how male artists have imagined the nude. Since debuting in 2009, Hammie has dedicated his career to traditional figurative painting, investigating the pictorial, technical, and narrative practices of Western art, producing portraits that disturb the existing canon and examine critical aspects of gender and race today.

Hammie works primarily in a studio, painting from life and photographs. Hammie’s subjects are often himself and the people in his life: friends, family, and fellow artists. Music is central to his creative practice. He cites Bjork, Oddisee, and Daft Punk as musical groups he listens to while working.

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