Barbara Hammer was born on May 15, 1939 in Hollywood, California. She is a visual artist working primarily in film and video. She has made over 80 moving image works in a career that spans 40 years. She is considered a pioneer of queer cinema.
In 2013 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship for a film Waking Up Together on the poet Elizabeth Bishop. She was awarded the same year a Marie Walsh Sharpe artist studio to work on performance projection.
Hammer was honored with a month long retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City from September 11-October 13, 2010. In February 2012 she had a month long retrospective at The Tate Modern in London followed by retrospectives in Paris at Jeu de Paume in June 2012 and the Toronto International Film Festival in October 2013.
Her work is represented by the gallery Koch Oberhuber Woolfe in Berlin, Germany where her first solo exhibition ran from February 11-April 17, 2011 and her third exhibition of collages and drawings in fall 2014.
Generations, 2010 (made with Gina Carducci), and Maya Deren’s Sink, 2011, her two most recent films won the Teddy Award for Best Short Films at the 2011 Berlinale. Her experimental films of the 1970’s often dealt with taboo subjects such as menstruation, female orgasm and lesbian sexuality. In the 80’s she used optical printing to explore perception and the fragility of 16mm film life itself. Optic Nerve (1985) and Endangered (1988) were selected for the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennials (’85,’89,’93). Her documentaries tell the stories of marginalized peoples who have been hidden from history and are often essay films that are multi-leveled and engage audiences viscerally and intellectually with the goal of activating them to make social change. Nitrate Kisses (1992) was chosen for the 1993 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial. Hammer was a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Fall 2005 at the Bratislava Academy of Art and Design, Slovakia; she received the first Shirley Clarke Avant-Garde Filmmaker Award in October 2006 from New York Women in Film and Television; and the Women In Film Award 2006 from the St. Louis International Film Festival.
In February 2007, she was awarded a tribute and retrospective at the Chinese Cultural University Digital Imaging Center in Taipei, Taiwan sponsored by Women Make Waves Film Festival. The Leo Award from the Flaherty Film Seminar was presented to her in 2008 for making a significant contribution to documentary film. In April of that year, Diving Women of Jeju-do premiered at the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival where Hammer presented followed by a trip to Beijing where she showed her 1970 lesbian films to a Feminist Seminar and at a new LGTQI Center. In 2011 she was a guest of the 10th Beijing Queer Film Festival. She also traveled to Shanghai and Xi’an to show work at small, unfunded organizations.
Hammer’s experimental documentary film on cancer and hope, A Horse Is Not A Metaphor, premiered in June, 2008 at the 32nd Frameline International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in San Francisco and in February, 2009 at DocFortnight at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It won the Teddy Award for Best Short Film at the 2009 Berlinale and Second Prize at the Black Maria Film Festival. It was selected for Punta de Vista Film Festival in Bilbao, Spain; the Torino Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Italy; the International Women’s Film Festival Dortmund/Koln, and the Festival de Films des Femmes Creteil among others.
In March 2010 her book, Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York was launched in a performance at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York. A 2010 book tour included The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; the British Film Institute in London, England; the Experimental Film Congress in Toronto, Canada; the University of California at San Diego Visual Arts Department; the San Francisco Cinematheque Crossroads Festival; the Northwest Film Center at the Portland Art Museum, and the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, Washington.
She teaches each summer at The European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Barbara Hammer lives and works in New York City and Kerhonkson, New York.