Christie H. Hammond

The early years

I grew up in a big old home in Seattle, full of books and antique furniture. Oriental rugs covered the floors and the walls were covered with etchings. I was surrounded by works of art: interesting, old leather-bound books, hand-carved tables and chairs with their distinct personalities, and many original prints of exceptional beauty (a legacy of my grandfather) - windows into other worlds. Ever since I can remember, the power of myth and fairytale, or a good story, has captured my imagination – especially when well-illustrated. My favorite story, however, was the Christmas story – in our home it became real every magical Christmas morning, and the symbols of the Nativity, the Star, St. Nicholas, the Tree, the Gifts, the Wisemen, and the Angels still inspire and inform my spiritual journey.

The wonder-full world of nature I discovered in books became real in my own backyard and the extended gardens of Volunteer Park. Soon, my spiritual identity became entwined with the environment. Exploring the secret garden in all gardens and wild areas, climbing trees and hiking forest trails, and swimming, swimming in the lakes, the rivers the pools and the oceans – eventually becoming a certified lifeguard; and finally becoming a licensed pilot and flying my wings all over the enchanted world beneath me...like Peter Pan, “first star to the right and straight on till morning”!

The professional years

I graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Medical Illustration. This unusual major combined the artistic techniques of illustration with medical classes in anatomy, histology and physiology – a creative compromise for my interest in art and the natural sciences. At that time, in the 60’s, the new field of Diagnostic Cytology had just led to the opening of a School of Cytology at the University of Washington. Their program developed skills in the diagnosis of disease and malignancy based on the microscopic evaluation of cytological (cellular) and histological (tissue) features of body specimens. Analysis of everything from pap smears to needle aspirations of lumps and bumps was based on the observer’s keen eye and ability to perceive fine detail in beautifully-stained slide preparations – a perfect fit for my twin passions: art and science. Certification led to my career as a Cytologist, during which time I supervised several Clinical Cytology Laboratories in Seattle, set up several laboratories and taught Cytology to students and Pathology residents at the University. Eventually I specialized in cytopathology research in the related field of Molecular Biology, evaluating tagged molecular reactions in normal and abnormal tissue sections, in the race to find medically significant antibodies.

The Creative Years

My lifelong interest in the creative arts found expression through poetry, photography and painting. I collected art, especially etchings, took endless photographs, and then, freed by retirement, I began to paint. What moved me as a child, a love of nature and the power of story, had grown into awe over the intricate reality of life. Painting became my way to honor and express the sacred spirit of beauty and mystery connecting all of life, inspired by the worlds I had perceived through the various lenses of the microscope, the telescope, the camera and my own eyes, as well as the magical impressions sometimes seen with the inner eye.

Painting has become for me a kind of spiritual exercise. I try to reflect aspects of beauty in detailed oil paintings of various subjects, both realistic and imaginary, occasionally using unusual stamps or mixed media to make each work unique and tell it’s story. Inspiration has come from several artististic sources, such as the mystical NW contemporary Morris Graves and the magical fairytale illustrations of Sulamith Wulfing, and Kay Neilson. I continue to be inspired by the Impressionist way of capturing light, (especially characterized by the joy of Renoir and the mastery of Monet), and the sacred spirit infusing all of Rembrandt’s dark but glowing etchings and oils.

My current paintings include a variety of subjects, with an emphasis on water themes (perhaps because I’m a Gemini!) including the elusive mermaid, a feminine symbol of transformation, who also embodies a mystical bridge between two worlds. Animals, especially cats, also find their way into my work, with their endless possibilities for wimsical portraits and paintings highlighting the relationship between fur persons and human persons. And occasionally I llike to capture the moment of truth waiting to be revealed in a still life or landscape. Thomas Merton once said “I pray by breathing”; in a very real sense, I am discovering that I pray by painting.