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Hammer’s colorful ‘happy’ art on display at Price Tower

For many "creatives," making one's art their day job is a long shot — a dream often unrealized.

But one Oklahoma visual artist — after a 25-year career as a graphic designer — finally took that fabled leap of artistic faith … in his 50s. Now, John Hammer spends his days filling the world with brilliant color and his own imaginative works. Art lovers can experience the joy of his craft first-hand as Price Tower's Gallery showcases Hammer's artwork in "Tattered Aesthetics and Peculiar Portrayals".

Hammer's one-of-a-kind exhibition is on display with free gallery admission at Price Tower through Aug. 16.

"Everyone's artistic style is unique because your interaction with your art is an extension of yourself and we are all unique. In other words, if you are true to yourself in your art then it can't help but be unique. My artistic style is also constantly changing as I change," Hammer said. "I've been told my colors are 'happy.' I suppose they are. It's not a conscious decision to use these colors; it's just what I like. I believe most people want to be happy and respond to things that bring out that feeling."

Hammer's bright "modern pop" artwork is well-known regionally and has featured innovative renderings of Oklahoma icons like the "Tulsa Driller" and famous "Blue Whale" on Route 66. Hammer first displayed at Price Tower as part of a popular skateboard exhibition, and from there Price Tower Arts Center Curator Deshane Atkins approached him about a future solo show. As the show developed, he decided to combine two segments of his work into one exhibition, which came together as "Tattered Aesthetics and Peculiar Portrayals".

The first features mixed-media pieces of seemingly forgotten everyday objects, given a new lease on life in brilliant color and the "patina of time". Hammer's "Portrayals" consists of unusual sketches transformed into bright screen prints, linocuts, paintings and sculpture, making for a eye-appealing showcase that appeals to all ages.

"I decided to show these two bodies of work together because they are so opposite from each other in every way. I also wanted to show that an artist can work in different styles and mediums at the same time and they don't have to focus their art in any single direction," Hammer said.

Executive Director Rick Loyd says the Price Tower is thrilled to be hosting a terrific Oklahoma-based artist with this lively exhibit.

"This is a colorful and vivid combination of two different aspects of John's art. In addition to the amazing work throughout the art center, you can also see the incredible mural he painted on the back wall of our gallery, " Loyd said.

Hammer says much of the work crafted for this exhibition inside Price Tower was inspired specifically by the iconic tower's unique space.

"In reality, there aren't that many (if any) spaces this size available to local artists to showcase their art. I'm extremely grateful to have this opportunity and look forward to seeing other local art given the space to be creative," Hammer said. "This gallery is amazing and gave me a goal to create work to fill this specific space. The sculptures came about because of the high ceilings and openness, and the mural is the first one ever painted inside the building."

Audiences viewing Hammer's show are sure to be impressed by his brilliantly rendered, over-sized mural hand-painted on the north wall of the gallery. The 12-foot by 25-foot mural, which was created over several days, is a feast of color for the eyes. Hammer says he was thrilled to have the opportunity to be asked to create the expansive art piece in his signature style.

"I love large-scale art. It has a totally different feeling than 'normal' sized art. I wanted this room to have an impact … something that grabbed your attention as soon as you walked in. The faces featured in the mural are random to fit the space," Hammer said. "With all of the different types of art displayed in this exhibition, there really is something for everyone. And it's housed in one of the greatest pieces of art ever created — Price Tower."

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and admission is free. For more information, go to pricetower.org.

Information for this article supplied by Price Tower.

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