The Meeting of Passion and Intellect 1981

Two rectangular, wooden armatures wrapped with cloth and coated with dark acrylic paint, latex rubber, and other materials.

Harmony Hammond, The Meeting of Passion and Intellect, 1981; Gift of Lily Tomlin and the artist

From 1978 through 1984, Harmony Hammond created sculptures made from wooden armatures that she tightly wrapped with cloth and then coated with acrylic paint, latex rubber, and other materials.

Hammond and other feminist artists working in the 1970s and ’80s asserted that art materials and processes contribute to the meaning of a work of art. Her process echoed knitting or weaving, handwork that was historically associated with women and thus undervalued.

Although abstract, Hammond’s sculptures cannily reflect her personal experiences as well as her political consciousness. To create The Meeting of Passion and Intellect and other “wrapped sculptures” from this period, Hammond used both cloth given to her by friends and discarded textiles she found behind sweat shops operating in Manhattan’s garment district. As she wound the cloth around her wood armatures, she tacitly wove into her works the experiences of her friends and the anonymous immigrant women who toiled in the shops that bordered Hammond’s neighborhood.

Seeing the bound fabric as “muscle” and the paint or latex rubber surfaces as skin, Hammond often enhanced the anthropomorphic quality of individual pieces she created by grouping them together or joining them directly so that they suggest heads or bodies. She also implied narrative content through her titles. Hammond notes that The Meeting of Passion and Intellect is partly a meditation on lesbian identity but is fundamentally about the relationships between two entities—whether people or ideas—that merge but remain discrete.

National Museum of Women in the Arts