Holding space for divine femininity, community gathering, and art: A conversation with Aramis Hamer
Aramis Hamer has been a full-time artist for the past three years but prior to that, she was working as a nurse and working on a Post- Baccalaureate in Naturopathic Medicine Program at Bastyr University with the goal of becoming a naturopathic doctor.
“The whole time I’m in Chicago. I’m painting in my living room, but I’m still going to work in critical care,” Hamer said. “When I came out here and met a lot of working artists and professional artists. I was like, ‘Oh, this could be a profession.’”
Art as a window and mirror
Beyond being a full-time artist, Hamer sees herself as a creator who can make anything whether it’s with a paintbrush, dance, music, or theater.
“To me, an artist is a creator. They truly create whatever really feels the urge to come out,” Hamer said. “As artists, we have no choice but to create, and that’s what pushed me to paint.”
Hamer’s art represents divine femininity and its power and royalty through the entire visible light spectrum. You can find it all over in Washington State, specifically Liberty Bank Building, KEXP Project, and Northwest African American Museum. She has also had exhibits at the Columbia City Gallery, Martyr Sauce Gallery, and the Paramount Theatre. With her pieces, she hopes to create a sense of awe and wonder. Hamer draws inspiration from artists like Kehinde Wiley, a contemporary Black artist who paints Black bodies into traditional Renaissance paintings. She also follows other artists that draw on Black girl magic, femininity, and Afrofuturism.
“It’s about telling my story [and] letting the narrative of this cosmic Black woman be seen on a huge platform. I’m not exactly sure what that platform looks like, whether that’s the MET or Brooklyn Museum,” Hamer said. It’s about having the story of these goddesses being seen. I already feel like I’m getting close to that journey but the more people that see it, the better.”
Art can be a window and mirror — a mirror being an opportunity to see yourself reflected in art, and a window offering a glimpse into someone else’s experience.
“I would call my art a little bit of a window and a mirror,” Hamer said. “It’s a self-reflection of me being a black woman and feeling connected to this higher goddess space, and a window for people to be able to see that experience on the same level.”
Hamer’s work has been received positively, but she is looking for new spaces that can challenge her. For this reason, Hamer is shifting her energy to focus on fine art spaces.
“How would it be seen in fine art space that’s so critical of work? I’m looking for something a little different that would help me grow,” Hamer said.
Hamer is set to be a featured artist in a group exhibit at a local museum in late 2020. Her artwork will feature a series of pieces depicting each Zodiac sign, all while challenging the beauty and strength of the female archetype.
“This is Aries here, the ram. She’s the fire sign, so she’s pretty fiery,” Hamer said. “This is Leo, which is also a fire sign, but Jaguar and Panther-esque. Virgo is going to be painted in a soft pastel pink.”
As for her next platform, Hamer is thinking about the potential for an international scope. She recalls doing a painting workshop in Ghana and visiting the Artists Alliance Gallery, which had three stories of art. She sees her work being featured in these spaces and invite opportunities for connection.
Developing partnerships and drawing on community strength
Hamer moved to Seattle from Chicago around six years ago. She was one of the co-founders of Black Dot, an organization that supports Black entrepreneurs, creatives, and technologists. That’s how she got in touch with Wyking Garrett, who invited her to paint a mural for the Liberty Bank Building alongside eight other artists who created pieces as well. Hamer was glad to see that Africatown fought for the entire Liberty Bank Building to have all affordable housing units, and she recalled the sense of celebration during its ribbon cutting.
“It was like a Black family reunion. It just brought me to tears because I was like, ‘this can still be the hub where people come,’” Hamer said. I was still working on the mural and some of my friends were moving in. They were so happy to be able to be in this building that’s affordable on 23rd and Union.”
While she was finishing the mural, she recalls seeing her friend Christopher Jordan, an artist who was recently chosen to create artwork for the AIDS Memorial Pathway in Cal Anderson Park.
“He was super inspired by the space because he saw it as an example for what can be done in other cities,” Hamer said. “Hopefully we’ll see a Liberty Bank model into in Tacoma someday.”
The Liberty Bank Building is in direct contrast to another reality where developers will offer to buy homes from community members, put up townhouses on that land, and make a profit.
“A lot of people are able to benefit from their resources, but there’s also a way that you move about a city,” Hamer said. “It can become an awful cycle, but it’s so inspiring to see what is being done with Africatown and Capitol Hill Housing. They’re really putting in the work and the effort.”
Seattle has also changed drastically with the influx of jobs at tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. One opportunity to address this change could start with collaborations so small businesses and communities can benefit from the resources of larger tech companies. For example, the Black Employee Network at Amazon hosted a workshop for Black entrepreneurs, which showed them how to set up a shop on Amazon’s website and use it as a resource. Similarly, she envisions other collaboration opportunities like a workshop where businesses and entrepreneurs could learn how to set up Google Ads.
Holding space for arts and community gathering
Beyond her artwork, Hamer will work on art selection for the new Midtown Center in the Central District.
“We want folks to know we’re still working behind the scenes to make sure that the Black community can still call this place home, even though it’s looking so different,” Hamer said.
Hamer also praised Africatown and its advocacy to develop land assets for the Black diaspora community, secure funding, and preserve places where community members can continue to gather. Moreover, she is inspired by the way that Seattle fights back against gentrification.
“Seattle is truly making history to say, ‘no, that actually doesn’t have to be the narrative of this cycle of gentrification, there can be something that can be done about it,’” Hamer said. “I’m just honored to see the resilience and the strength of the folks who live here.”
Hamer was also accepted into the newest cohort of the Build Art Space Equitably, a 12-month certification program for leaders from the arts, cultural, and development profession. One of her goals is to hold space for the community through working spaces for artists and gathering places for conversation around art.
“Back in the day, I was able to paint these in the living room but with these eight-foot pieces, it’s now changing,” Hamer said. “Part of my role is to make sure that we continue to gather around art, and that those spaces are affordable for us.”