By Maria D’Anselmi
The Haggerty Art Gallery is currently featuring the works of two non-student artists, Hollis Hammonds and Christopher Troutman. The show is titled “Marking Time, Making Space” and it is well worth a visit.
Upon walking into the brightly-lit gallery, Troutman’s massive charcoal drawings are immediately striking. Dark and detailed, they feature tense and intricate scenes from the streets of Japan.
Troutman was born and raised in the Midwest and moved to Kagoshima, Japan, to teach English before graduate school. The sharp contrast betwwen the broad and open United States he grew up in and the cramped, hilly, bustling city of Kagoshima captivated him. The cultural influence of Japan that permeates his work makes it feel decidedly not American.
“It is an everyday experience for people who grew up there but for me, it is something that did have a real impact,” Troutman said. “The space there is quite different compared to something in the Midwest…where everything is maybe a couple stories high.”
In comparison to Texas, which is flat with a vast expanse of sky, the smoky glimpse into such a foreign world is like a claustrophobic vacation.
“I feel like I kind of recreate some of that tension, when I’m trying to develop this complex composition,” Troutman said.
There is a palpable stress in the everyday slices of life Troutman captures with charcoal and ink that makes the frozen moments come to life. This is especially because the figures are nearly life size.
“I’m not interested in more straightforward, simple compositions,” Troutman said. “I feel like I have to fill it with all sorts of activity…whether that’s through the environment or the figures.”
Troutman’s work is beautifully complemented by Hammonds’ graceful depictions of the apocalyptic effects that natural disasters have on our world. Her artwork features enormous collages of trash, beat-up objects, and occasional car tires that show the aftermath of hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and other unknown destructive forces. Hammonds, who grew up in northern Kentucky, is no stranger to natural disasters.
“We had this small tornado rip off the front porch of our house one year,” Hammonds said. “There would be a lot of violent storms that would come through there.”
Ever since witnessing the damage that nature can inflict, Hammonds became almost obsessed with it, and for good reason.
“I’m interested in our human desire to look at these horrible things that are happening, and how they are sensationalized through [the] media,” Hammonds said. “Although my work doesn’t show that directly, the work is much more subtle. That’s where my personal interest came from.”
How can the wake of a catastrophe be anything but depressing? Hammonds draws exploding houses, destroyed homes stacked atop more ruined houses and garbage hanging from fishing nets. She does it beautifully, conveying the stillness of the wreckage while hinting at the horror of the preceding events.
“The exploding house is still very cheerful,” Hammonds said. “The drawings aren’t very violent, they are super quiet and still.”
While a detectable message against consumerism and humanity’s abuse of the environment exists, Hammonds by no means hammers it over your head. She focuses more on a topic not usually handled: the power and finality of damage from the elements.
“Marking Time, Making Space” runs until April 26. Hammonds and Troutman have contributed a fantastic show to the University of Dallas, and there is still time for students and faculty to take advantage of it.