Monday, December 12, 2011

Mary Hood's "Twilight Hours" Prints Evoke Story-telling

Mary Hood is an artist, originally from Wisconsin, who teaches printmaking at one of the nation's printmaking meccas, Arizona State University in Tempe. I have been familiar with Hood's work for over a decade, and have watched her artistic and technical growth span several subjects, all with some inter-connectedness dealing with time, mathematics, space and silence. Her latest subject matter has taken all that into account and has made a shift in a new direction that I find curious and welcome. 

Hood says of her newest pieces..."[they are about] luminous space between day and night, where the imagination creates images of things unseen. With The Twilight Hours I am interested in new ways of defining space...time, narrative, and experience are embodied in myth and story telling, and work to contribute to a collective cultural understanding and quieting of the mind."

The images below are from her new series called "The Twilight Hours", and they both present a subject swinging from a rope or cord, seeming to hang in the air from some larger object that can handle the object. Yet, they also ignite something else - imagination and speculation. I keep coming back to them, over and over. I am curious to know what is suspending these two subjects - the one on the left is a big, black bear that appears to be asleep as it hangs in the harness. It's not dead, and its certainly not awake. It slumbers. And as it lingers there in its physical and metaphoric limboed state, it appears peaceful, gentle, and one could almost say, endearingly sweet. 

The image on the right is a cord of rope that is swinging. It initiates remembrances of childhood playtime down on the farm with siblings or cousins - discovering a swing in the barn loft, or one found at the neighbor's stream or fishing pond. In any case, both images pieces have subtle engagements with movement, and the pale white and blue petals or butterflies floating past them at the only relief from a nebulous space where we can see no ground or place ourselves in relation to what's happening before us. 

Are we as the witnesses to these subjects similarly suspended and swaying in space? We cannot tell, but no matter, they invite us to create a narrative - one of a simpler time, a quiet time of story-telling. In these images I sense a comradery with fellow Wisconsin artists Gail Panske and Robert Erickson, and some of the illusionary magic of renowned children's book author Eric Rohmann's images. 

Hood's neutral base for these pieces sets us in a transitional place, where reality isn't and dreams are wide open. I am quieted by the bear and want to swing closer to it for comfort. The rope is my life-line; that if I grasp it, it will bring me into the place of these suspended objects, and I can find peace from the chaotic existence of my daily life. The images are windows to some place where time and being somewhere don't matter. We can just 'hang' with these other objects and suspend and insulate ourselves from the outside world for as long as we like. I want to hang out with the black bear and the butterflies....