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Charlotte Wilson-Hammond: A Sensual Physicality

By Dee Dwyer

In her studio, Charlotte Wilson-Hammond shows me the art she is making of a muted photograph on mylar, of a tall shadow leaning across a landscape of grasses and rocks. To this she applies muted shades of coloured pencil.  “I have always worked with the body and the land, the environment and the environment of the body,” says Charlotte, who has had an accomplished fifty-year career—a career that has been and continues to be shaped by her relationship to the environment of her Clam Harbour home and the Eastern Shore.

The work mentioned above is one of fourteen that will be part of her next solo exhibition, In/Visible, about the invisibility of women as they age.  The new work shows the consistencies in her art and the sensual physicality of the earth and the body.

Born in Montreal, Quebec to a mother who was a potter and a journalist father, Charlotte lived for many years with her grandmother who painted. She took painting classes from the artist Eric Goldberg, who encouraged her to continue her art.  She studied at the Three Schools of Art in Toronto with Dennis Burton, a dynamic teacher, who taught her the importance of seeing.

When I ask what brought her to the Eastern Shore, Charlotte says, “The sixties were exciting times with the back to the land movement, and we wanted to live in the country.”  Artist friends directed Charlotte and her husband Gordon Hammond to Nova Scotia. After camping on a beach one night, Gordon found an old house that he and Charlotte bought for $14,000. “The Eastern Shore accepted us—weird hippies that we were,” says Charlotte.  She taught painting classes and began her work as an advocate for the arts. She painted and exhibited semi-abstract nudes and landscapes of Clam Harbour.

When Charlotte participated in the 4th Dalhousie Drawing Exhibition of 1979, she made a slight departure from her semi-abstract work. “I wanted to show an alternative to the traditional female nude and I am fascinated by the male stance,” says Charlotte. She asked a few male friends to photograph themselves doing daily tasks, and she made drawings from the photos. The work, not surprisingly, created a controversy. Charlotte says, “When the show opened some people wondered if I was having affairs with all these men?”

Other works by Charlotte include collages made of materials from nature layered with Japanese paper, ink, acrylic, and oil. In another show, she reproduced watercolours which become base images to which she applied coloured pencil.  Charlotte’s life drawings were showcased in Bill McGillivray’s 1987 film, Life Classes.  She has also made installations and videos.

She won the Portia White Prize in 2004, and was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts in 2006. She has been on a number of arts boards, and was one of the founding members of Eye Level Gallery. She is particularly passionate about the Nova Scotia Talent Trust and their work helping young artists. One scholarship recipient is Cindy Thong, daughter of the owner of Ong’s Restaurant in Jeddore.

With her show, In/Visible, coming up next year at ARTsPlace in Annapolis Royal, Charlotte Wilson-Hammond is adding to an accomplished body of work about what we see and who we are in our landscapes. 

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