Richard Hood – featured artist

  • Posted by: Tomato Head, Market Square Manager • July 10th, 2019

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Live life long enough and the truth of that old saw may smack you about the head more than once.  But what’s also often the case that truth and reality don’t need much embellishment to cross from the mundane to the glorious; in fact, sometimes, all it takes is a change in the point of view.

Human perception is an easily exhausted tool.  Consider nasal fatigue whereby even the most exotic aromas will fade into the unexceptional after only few minutes of constant exposure.  Likewise, cloud crowned mountain majesties become just another feature of the landscape after only days of being in regular sight.

We get used to the magic around us.  And sometimes, we want to improve it, to refigure the enchantment.  How we do that is part of what gets artist Richard Hood fired up.

Hood, photographer, scholar, writer, and musician, isn’t exactly on a mission to reintroduce the magic of the everyday into our lives.  At least, he hasn’t proclaimed any such crusade, but his photography and, arguably, other aspects of his work manage to hint at a passion that’s rooted in the authentic, things free of too much interference but full of the natural wonder about us.

Hood’s photographic style is natural and deliberate.  He eschews that idea of taking hundreds of photos in hopes of capturing the right image. Most days, he says, “I just take 6 or seven pictures.”  He also abjures the tendency to manipulate images.  In fact, Hood’s ethos is rooted in in a kind of authenticism that not only honors the place, time, and context of his work but also seeks to keep focus on the true, perhaps unaltered nature of his subject.

“We’re in this postmodern world where the truth has gone to hell.  It’s lies in the name of establishing some reality that people are going to abide by – just like photography in which people are suffusing photos with color and now that’s becoming a standard.  Nothing makes me crazier than these photos that look like they’re from another planet because they load them up with colors that have never existed on Earth.”

It may be easy to equate Hood’s passion for the authentic with Luddism, but that would be a mistake.  It’s not technology that concerns him – it’s more akin to a disdain for over-manipulation of a subject.  “These are definitive acts that you’re doing: photography, writing, playing.  But if they’re not true to the place or the times, what’s the point?”

If you search YouTube hard enough, you can find footage of Hood playing a fretless banjo which he plays in a 2 finger style.  He owns other instruments and, as far as I can tell, has nothing against the typical fretted banjo.  But his passion for music is also rooted in a quest for the authentic.  When he talks about Bluegrass, he refers more than once to the tension between tradition and improvisation: “There’s a passionate insistence on getting it right and yet the music is improvisational so to do it the right way, you have to do it wrong.”

For Hood, it doesn’t come down to what’s right or wrong or whether or not progress is bad.  For him the “inventiveness as to be true to what’s in the music itself.  In interviews when he was asked how he knew what to play, Bill Monroe said, ’You play what’s in the tune.’”

In his photography Hood seeks to echo that sentiment with images that are often magical without much manipulation.  But you can see for yourself.  “East Tennessee Images by Richard Hood: Limited Edition Photographs” will be on view at the downtown Knoxville Tomato Head on Market Square from June 3rd thru July 7th.  The exhibit will then display at the West Knoxville Tomato Head from July 9th thru August 5th.

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