Mary Hood – Staff Picks
I met Mary Hood in the early 90’s in Madison. She was in graduate school, and I was a recent graduate of the UW Art Department. I acquired a few prints of hers back then and even as my collection of art has grown, and new things replaced old, Mary’s pieces remained loved and relevant to me. Mary has an ability to create images that resonate with the viewer. Even as a student Mary had a unique voice and keen interest in materials and traditional and new techniques.
In Mary’s current show “Small Stories and other Adventures”, on display through July 17th , there is one piece that has stayed with me since the moment I saw it. “Displaced/Replaced” is a diptych. On the left is an image of a black bear suspended in the air and on the right side a coiled rope that is obviously meant to connect to the bear on the left. There is such a beauty to the composition and the way she has created the image of the bear. It is also at first glance a sad image. Why the rope? What is happening to this animal? Then you realize it is a harness, not a noose, as I first saw it. This bear has been tranquilized and hoisted to be moved to a safer location. Mary told me this image is based on a real event that stuck with her from the news where she lives in Arizona. This print brings up questions about our relationship to wild animals. Who is this move better for; the bear or us? We revere animals and sometimes to the point of romanticizing; but when they get too close to our habitat we change theirs. Mary is very interested in ideas of utopia, harmonious wilderness unspoiled by the impact of human civilization. In her words, “It is glorified as the spontaneous result of a life lived naturally, uncorrupted by civilization in pastoral simplicity. Yet, creation is by nature both harmony and conflict.” Is it our work to guide conflict to harmony?
“Displaced/Replaced” is as thoughtful as it beautiful. It is a work of art that reverberates with me on multiple levels. Spending time with this print in the gallery I approach it differently from day to day. Sometimes I simply appreciate the elegant composition, and the exquisite handing of the techniques; the way the bears fur appears so soft and inviting. I love how the rope leaves the top of the paper reappearing in the next frame beautifully rendered. Other days this print makes me think about the message in this piece. What is our moral responsibility when it comes to treatment of other animals we share space with? From a young age I may have overly identified with the suffering of animals and assumed them sentient beings (correctly or not). Bears are the dominate image in the works included in this current show. Mary told me in a conversation that some of the bears are stand ins for humans. She feels that the over saturation of images of human suffering in the media has desensitized us. The bears are images that fill us with compassion and these particular pieces will stay with you long after seeing them. They remind me that we all share this planet and deserve compassionate contemplation.
- Theresa Abel