PENINSULA PROFILE: Artist captures the essence of animals

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

Where to see her work

HARBOR ART, 110 E. Railroad Ave., Port Angeles, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Tammy Hall’s paintings, sculpture, collage and assemblage can be seen there as well as at Cafe New Day, 102 W. Front St., where her artwork adorns the check trays.
PORT ANGELES — Taking shape in Tammy Hall’s living room: a wolf, a raven and a mermaid.

She found these would-be creatures on the beach, in what looks like a plain stick or a scrap smoothed by the sea.

Hall brings these pieces home, binds them together with rubber bands until the glue sets, and turns them into something impossible.

“The First Impossible Thing,” Hall’s driftwood image of a unicorn with the profile of an Arabian horse, attracts a lot of attention.

It won Best in Show at the Sequim Arts Juried Show earlier this month, and is now ensconced at Harbor Art, the waterfront gallery in Port Angeles.

Hall, 53, has been making art since before she could read or write. She’s a sculptor, painter and collage maker who grew up in Southern California.

But Harbor Art is the first gallery to showcase the work of this artist, as she embarks on a new era of life.

Hall and her husband, Chris, lived in the Ventura County town of Somis when they learned of plans to build a freeway close to their backyard. They had heard about Port Angeles from friends, and when they came north, they found a house deep in the green woods off Black Diamond Road. This spot felt exactly right.

In the 10 years since arriving here, Hall has displayed her artwork in temporary exhibits at places such as the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, where her “Raven II” won an honorable mention in 2013’s Art Convergence show.

She and Chris worked on their house and yard, combed the beaches of Clallam County, and enjoyed the peace of this rural place.

Then, a year ago, Chris died suddenly due to an embolism, a blood clot that traveled to his lung.

“People asked me, ‘Are you going to move?’ I said no, this is my home,” Hall recalls.

Her house, with its rooms full of art and books, is where she paints and sculpts. The beach — from Ediz Hook to Kalaloch — is home, too. It’s where inspiration comes in, like the moist, cool wind.

With a canvas bag and an open mind, Hall roams the sands, looking for the right pieces of driftwood. She doesn’t seek specific shapes — “if I looked for a leg of lamb, I’d never find it” — but when she spies a good piece, she also sees her next animal.

“The beach lets me know,” Hall says.

“A good knowledge of anatomy helps,” as does a love of literature. Her “First Impossible Thing” sculpture got its title from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, in which the White Queen has a conversation with Alice.

“One can’t believe impossible things,” Alice declares.

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” the Queen replies.

“When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

“Hopefully,” adds Hall, “I have five more coming.”

Working at Harbor Art seemed impossible at first. The gallery is a cooperative, so the artists must work at least two five-hour shifts per month. Hall, who has a learning disability that makes it difficult for her to work with numbers, was not confident about running the cash register, so she figured joining the cooperative was out of the question.

Still, she kept visiting the gallery, kept liking the way it looked and felt.

Enter Hall’s friend Sharon Adamson. I’ll handle the money exchange during your shifts, while you talk with visitors about art, Adamson told hall.

This works just fine, said Cindy Elstrom, who with partner Bob Stokes opened the Harbor Art cooperative last year.

Adamson and Hall work together, showing and selling the ceramics, sculpture, paintings and mixed-media creations that pack the small space.

Hall’s sculpture “The Fox,” made of scores of driftwood pieces, went on display at Harbor Art recently. It sold “right out of the gate,” said Stokes. Price: $1,200, reduced a bit since the buyer also purchased another of Hall’s works.

The artist’s versatility shows here too. Her driftwood rabbit, a bird’s nest assemblage and a painting, “A Good Day at the Beach,” share gallery space with “The First Impossible Thing.”

The “Beach” canvas, with its wind-whipped waves, “brings you right in,” said Elstrom.

“You look at her art, and there’s depth. There’s spirit . . . she’s got that special eye that can capture the essence of something.

“She follows her creativity and creates these beautiful things.”

Hall didn’t go to art school. Ask her how she gives her sculptures their sense of motion, and she says, “I’m not sure.”

She does know that her driftwood creations are growing larger.

In this process, “the world falls away,” Hall says.

“I don’t worry about anything. If a problem was bothering me, I forget about it.

“I’m in a very good place.”

Hall has had the same dream since she was a girl: to make a living as an artist. And she has had some success in Port Angeles. Earlier this year, Cafe New Day, John and Kelli Hammond’s downtown restaurant, commissioned her to create the artwork for its check trays. Hall turned the plastic rectangles into 30 one-of-a-kind miniature collages.

She’s also sold a sculpture here, won some prize money there, but still pays her bills by cleaning other people’s houses.

Ask Elstrom — a full-time artist and teacher — about Hall’s dream, and the response comes quick.

“I think she’ll get there,” she said.

Last modified: May 24. 2014 6:27PM
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