Longtime Kent Countian's first Delaware exhibit in a decade opens Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Agricultural Museum and Village, Dover.

    It’s difficult to categorize K.M. Hammond’s work. The prolific local artist has been in the business of creation for half a century, which has only made it harder to describe a style that ranges from broad oil paintings to seamlessly fused watercolors to small-scale pen ink pieces and acrylic-painted rocks. Her latest medium may be her most eclectic: Crayola crayon.

    The masses may not even know her by name as she doesn’t believe in prints.

    “They’re watered down, flavorless. They don’t do anything for me,” she said. Looking at artwork live, however, gives people insight into its genesis. “I get the whole mood, all that was put into the creation.”

    Audiences will have a chance to see 67 of the artist’s pieces at her first Delaware exhibit in a decade. It opens with a reception from 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, at the Agricultural Museum & Village, 866 N. DuPont Highway, Dover.

    Nestled in a home south of Camden, Hammond looks comfortable amidst the large, framed paintings stacked against nearly every piece of furniture. She loves to paint large, she said laughing, as her daughter, Joyce Lewis, chuckled. It was actually Lewis’ dream to see her mother’s 50-year professional career celebrated, so she has been working with Hammond to sort through the approximately 350 pieces she has created since the late ’80s when she decided to “start fresh” and give away most of her earlier work. A handful of her earlier pieces will be at the exhibit.

    Most of the work will be agricultural themed, a joy for Hammond who has captured much of the Delmarva landscape in multiple mediums. Her religious faith gives her a heightened appreciation for nature’s beauty, she said.

    “God is a God of nature, and he loves nature. He made it,” she said.

    She wants others to appreciate what inspires her: rural Delaware, beach life, trains running through forests, agricultural scenes and more.

A life in images
    Hammond didn’t have the luxury of paper and pencils as a child. Born right after start of the Great Depression, it wasn’t until she was a first-grader in teacher Nellie Stokes’ class that she drew her first image.

    Stokes put a large piece of paper on each child’s desk and told them to draw a pot of pansies on her desk. Hammond filled nearly the entire piece of paper, going all the way to the edge. When Stokes told her it was beautiful, Hammond was hooked. Her mom, Anna Herschberger, encouraged her daughter to follow her passion, possibly because as an Amish girl Herschberger couldn’t practice art herself. Her artwork consisted of sketches of newspaper images that covered the home’s walls, Hammond said.

    Hammond, who is mostly self-taught, started her professional career in 1959 when her mom asked her to do an oil painting of a snow-covered bridge scene from a Christmas postcard. After that, people started asking Hammond for commissioned work.

    “It all kept blossoming and growing,” Hammond said.

    She started with oil and brushes, and now works with a painting knife. As her career grew, she also diversified her mediums. She now works in oil, acrylic, pen and ink, watercolor, charcoal, pencil, mixed media and Crayola crayon.

    “All my life ... I would collect Crayola crayons, I guess because I couldn’t have any when I was little,” she said.

    Crayons are her latest medium, and at least one of her crayon works will be on display.

Looking ahead
    The 76-year-old artist does not seem to have slowed much, even after she went legally blind in 2006. Her left eye has given her trouble since she was 12, and in 2003 her sight started deteriorating in both eyes. Still, she painted. The brush strokes were broader, and the resulting work was rougher, but she still did it. In 2007 she had a new lens implanted in her right eye and her life changed.

    “I could see the signs, the cars. Everything. It still is a miracle,” Hammond said.

    Now, as she has for years, she tries to paint as much as possible.

    “She lives to paint and paints to live,” Lewis said of her mom.

    Hammond said she’ll never run out of inspiration. And although she will continue to paint, this is a unique chance to see her work.

    “I use my energy to paint. I don’t use my energy to show,” she said.

    Email Sarika Jagtiani at sarika.jagtiani@doverpost.com

If You Go
WHAT K.M. Hammond 50-year retrospective exhibit
WHEN Opening reception is 2 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1; regular hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
WHERE Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village, 866 N. DuPont Highway, Dover
ADMISSION Free for reception; general admission is $5, $3 for students and seniors, and free for members and children 3 and younger
MORE INFO Call 734-1618, or visit www.kmhammondart.com or www.agriculturalmuseum.org