Alumna Spotlight Update: Janell Hammer

Janell Hammer

Former Inver PSEO student and Hamline grad new Gallery 120 coordinator

Janell Hammer, 21, recently accepted the roles of Gallery 120 coordinator and Art department 2D college lab assistant (CLA) at Inver Hills Community College. Janell was interviewed for an Inver Hills News story, “Artist Spotlight: Janell Hammer,” in May 2019 (see below). After graduating from Inver Hills and Hastings High School, she attended Hamline University, leveraging the A.A. degree she earned at Inver to complete a B.F.A. in Studio Arts and Art History.


Janell is a multidisciplinary artist who began her artistic journey as a painter. She switched her emphasis to printmaking and fiber art as an undergrad at Hamline. “My work focuses on framing classical themes and motifs through a contemporary and feminine lens,” Janell said. “Investigating the intersections of nostalgia and grief associated with going up during the turn of the century.

Her art has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin, including the Soeffker Gallery, Paradise Center of the Arts, and Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Center. At the latter exhibition, her painting, “Melancholy (oil on canvas),” took second place in the Oil/Acrylic/Mixed Media competition.

The exhibition at the Paradise Center in Faribault, Minnesota, was a duo show with St. Paul-based artist, Michael Finch.

Paradise Center Exhibition

“Michael’s current artistic practice investigates similar historical themes and ideas,” Janell explained, “while he typically works in a more 3D capacity as a sculptor. We have created a really wonderful working relationship, and we want to continue collaborating to build out bodies of work to exhibit together.”

Janell’s previous job experience in the art world includes working as Allison Baker‘s studio assistant. She worked on a collaborative team that brought the artist’s concepts to life as large public sculptures.

“The largest is at Franconia Sculpture Park,” Janell said, “and the most recent at Hamline Midway Park is called Radical Joy, which was commissioned by the city of St. Paul.”

Janell worked as a gallery assistant for the Soeffker Gallery in St. Paul and the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery in Boston. She helped curate a show at the latter gallery and most recently co-curated Artifactuality with Allison Baker at NE Sculpture | Gallery Factory.

Before starting at Inver Hills, Janell served as the visitor and administrative coordinator for The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, where she learned more about the operations side of a nonprofit arts organization and residency program.

Janell Hammer art gallery

Cats and more cats

While art remains a large passion in her life, Janell is an unrivaled, self-titled cat lady at heart. Speaking of cats, when asked to provide details about the cats in her family, she said: “This is a funny question because I have two new cats since this last article was written. So Toby, one of the cats in the first article, passed away January of 2020; since then I have introduced two new cats into my life.


“My oldest, Millie, is a sweetheart and attached at my hip. She will be laying in my bed 99 percent of the day and only leaves to go eat, use the bathroom, or go out of her way to terrorize the youngest cat, Norman. For some reason, Millie just decided that she does not like Norman. Second oldest is Charlie—he is a sweet boy who will do anything for squeezy treats. Not a very bright boy, but what he lacks in brains he more than makes up for in heart and fluffiness.

“Onto the newest two: Nettie is a longhaired black-and-white girl. She is super silly and the hunter of the group. Many times, I’ve been awakened by her bringing a LIVE mouse into my bedroom so she can play with it.

“And the youngest is Norman, a longhaired seal point ragdoll. He comes across as an unhappy angry boy, but secretly he actually loves love. His meow only has one tone and that is set to ‘annoyed.’ His favorite toy is a handmade mouse toy from an old cashmere sweater. He loves to play fetch with it and will bring it to you randomly. Norman and Nettie are best friends, probably because they both have enough energy to chase each other around all the time.”

Janell’s cat gallery

Janell Hammer’s artist statement


At the core of the work is a playful reimagining of classical ideals which transpose imagery meant to carry a higher level of privilege and prestige. There is a deconstruction in the way art history has been coded through a Western, male-dominated lens. Thus there is significant work put into reconstructing these expectations by combining and dissecting image, purpose, and lived experience against established religious iconography and familiar and dominating motifs in the artistic canon.

While engaging with figurative subject matter, there is an intentional breaking apart of the complex and imperfect form. Leaving artifacts of a former behind in the search for a new whole; found in the breaking down of structures, monolithic use of color, and glimmers of gold. The work sees the world with an artifactual quality highlighted by the extreme presence and demand for a whole. Reminiscent to domestic themes and the cyclical nature of history, reworking stories, and the feminine tradition of caring for and carrying on familial responsibilities.

Consequently, there is grief and melancholy found around the negotiation of femininity, belonging, and the melodramatic parallel to what exactly constitutes classical and “pure” codes of being. Emphasis and urgency are given to the delicate and inherently feminine nature of the materials used; fibers such as yarn, white bull denim, and canvas. Bringing light to a growing feeling of disconnect, the work sits somewhere between the lines of certainty and uncertainty, coupled with sadness and curiosity. Informed by the ritualistic and cathartic use of repetition found within the installations and the process of creation, the work looks to camouflage itself into a narrative and space which it does not quite fit.

Janell Hammer Q & A (2023)

Janell Hammer
How did your time at Inver Hills prepare you for Hamline and your career in the art world?

Sometimes, I wonder where I would be professionally if I had not been in the PSEO program. I was at a point in my life where I needed more responsibility and freedom, and that is what Inver Hills provided me.

My time at Inver allowed me to shift my focus to holding myself responsible for my success instead of having the safety nets of high school. With that, I found I was given an opportunity to really begin exploring my goals.

Completing all my generals at Inver gave me the opportunity to make art my first priority when I transferred to Hamline. Knowing that I put in a lot of hard work to get my generals done and out of the way was a huge weight lifted off me.

I think developing a solid work ethic around studio practice started at Inver and is still present in my career as an artist today. An idea that sticks with me from the painting courses I took with Rob [Kolomyski] was that it was more important for a student to demonstrate understanding of the theory and concepts being taught in their art rather than the demand for a finished piece of art; that every artist works at their own pace.

That is something I valued. Rob saw the effort I was putting into my art, and he worked with me and showed an understanding for my process.

Janell Hammer and Rob Kolomyski (2019)
What are you looking forward to most as the college’s Gallery 120 coordinator?

I am excited to curate shows, work with artists, and provide a space that I hope students and faculty can come enjoy. Ultimately, that is the goal; to give artwork a platform to reach a community for which the work mirrors stories and lived experiences that resonate with them. It’s a huge opportunity and privilege to be in this role.

What are your essential goals and aspirations as an artist?

An essential goal for me as an artist is continuing to learn and grow both personally and artistically. I have had wonderful, incredible mentors in my life (Allison Baker specifically <3) and because of that, I want to do the same for those just starting out.

I think the art world can be scary to navigate. It is extremely competitive so on the rare occasion you find a community open to sharing and committed to success as whole, you stay and you contribute to that. And I feel that Inver has fostered a community like that, and I am excited to be a part of it again.

Learn more about Gallery 120 by contacting:

Janell Hammer
Gallery 120 Coordinator
Art Department 2D Art CLA
Gallery 120 on Facebook
Gallery 120 Online

Gallery 120 current show: Grief & Bureaucracy

Grief & Bureaucracy

The following story was first published May 6, 2019, on Inver Hills News.

Artist Spotlight: Janell Hammer

Janell Hammer
Janell Hammer

PSEO student works toward transferring to Hamline as a junior

Janell Hammer, 17, is a junior at Hastings High School in Hastings, Minnesota. Janell is also completing her first semester as a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student at Inver Hills Community College.

Janell is on track to graduate from high school and Inver Hills in 2020 before transferring to Hamline University as a junior to study graphic design, art education and/or a foreign language, most likely French.

“I would really like to study abroad in France or Belgium,” said Janell, a talented artist studying painting and drawing at Inver Hills. She can see herself making a career teaching art in a French-speaking country. “I love the French language along with French culture, art and music.”

Janell built a connection with Belgium through a painting series she based on the Belgian singer, Loïc Nottet, who finished second in the 2014 season of The Voice Belgique and fourth representing Belgium in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, which featured contestants from 39 other countries.

What one word best describes your experience at Inver Hills?


¹ In the sense that I have so much more control over my classes and schedule and everything in between, compared to high school that is.

Janell Hammer Q & A (2019)

What is one thing every painter should know?

If you go into a painting with a positive attitude then you are more likely to be happy with the outcome than if you go into it doubting yourself. Even if you still doubt yourself, then make yourself more optimistic until that becomes the case, fake it til you make it!

What is your favorite artistic medium?

Oils! I love being able to freeze oils between uses and not having to waste or mix new paints every time I want to continue on a painting.

What do you like best about studying art?

I like the change in pace. You are able to take control of what your plan is during the class period and there is less pressure to meet deadlines and fit into a box. Rob especially recognizes that everyone works at their own pace and does not look for completion, but rather for an understanding of concepts.

Three words that describe you as an artist:

What is the most challenging aspect of creating art at the college level?

Probably balancing my own need to make my art look as perfect as possible and wanting to have it as finished as possible for critiques and grading.

What advice would you give students thinking about making art their career path?

I’d say to go for it! It does not hurt to give it a try, especially if you are passionate about your art. If it works out then that is awesome and if it doesn’t and you realize that maybe it was not the path for you, then no biggie! At least you can say you gave it a try. Don’t ever feel obligated to pursue a career in art if you are having doubts, dip your toes in the water and decide as you go.

Out of all the works of art you’ve created, what is your favorite?

That is hard to say—I like each piece for different reasons. Right now though, probably #4 in the Loïc Nottet Series (see below).

Who is your favorite artist?

Chuck Close!

What is your greatest strength as an artist?

Grids! I always go all out when starting a painting and making sure I have a solid base/outline of the piece I am going to make. I know if I spend the extra time to make sure the proportions are correct then it will only make the painting easier down the line.

What is one thing every PSEO student should know?

I guess the biggest thing is don’t feel you can’t take classes you’re unsure about. You should just go for classes that might seem too difficult. Also, more students should know about the opportunities PSEO provides.

Learn more about the A.F.A. in Art at Inver Hills by contacting:

Rob Kolomyski
Art Department Chair
Painting and Drawing Faculty

Tags from the story
, , , , , ,

1 Comment

  • What a wonderful Bio on this young women I’ve seen grow and develop her art skill, from the time she was born. Inver Hills you have a gem! Congratulations Janell!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *