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Dee Hood : Media Queen

In Art, Feature, Interview on August 29, 2009 at 10:57 am

above the frey (crop)

“Above the Frey” (detail) by Dee Hood

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Media Queen

An Interview with Dee Hood

by Max Eternity

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Hi Dee, welcome to AD Mag

Hi Max!  Thanks for the invitation.

Could you tell us a little about yourself?  Where are you from?

I’ve lived in Florida most of my life. As a kid, I had the incredible opportunity of calling the beach my playground.  Those years of freedom and exploration had a big impact on the rest of my life.  I became self sufficient at a very early age and I learned to question everything!

Sound’s exciting, you had an adventurous childhood?

Yes.  And I still love exploring new ground, entertaining myself.  [Consequentially] I’m more comfortable with change than most people.

Do you come from an artistic family?

My grandfather was a furniture maker-designer. I think I got some of his creative juice.

When I initially contacted you last week, I had done so because I saw some terrific videos on your website.   We’ll get to that in a minute, but first could you talk a bit about your interest in art, what motivates you?

My interest in art and life are intertwined.  The motivation has always been there; the curiosity–the drive to push boundaries–the rebel rubbing against the grain.  It must have been written on my forehead at birth…nonconformist.  There aren’t so many professions for people born under that sign, [so] visual artist was an easy choice.  It’s been a wonderful and wacky ride, and I’ve been surrounded by very creative, interesting, and passionate people.

Let’s talk about some of your art now.  I love the oil painting with the alligator {crocodile?} at the bottom?  What’s going on there in that piece?

abovefrey“Above the Frey” by Dee Hood

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That painting is called “Above the Frey”  It’s about trying to stay afloat in life, navigating your way through the day to day crap and not letting it drag you down.  I like to inject humor into my work.  I’d hate to take myself too seriously!

Website (screenshot)– Screenshot of Dee Hood’s (homepage) website

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I can see that.  And before I forget, let me just say, you have a great site, by the way.  Did you design it yourself?

I did design it.  Thanks!  The real trick is to keep it current.

storiesofthenewworld (dee hood and therman statom)“Stories of the New World”  by Therman Statom with Dee Hood

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So lets see, you do installation, video, painting and sculpture.  And speaking of sculpture, the one entitled “Looking for Signs of Integrity” is rather interesting.

‘Looking for Signs of Integrity” … is a tongue-in-cheek piece to search out integrity wherever it may be hiding.  [And] obviously I don’t subscribe to the belief that you must focus in one area.   I look for the medium that can best express what I’m trying to say.

lookingforsigns“Looking for Signs of Integrity” by Dee Hood

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I think we’re finally moving away from those hard boundaries in art.

I agree.  It would appear so.  But as to “Looking for Signs of Integrity”, the piece seems to be telling a story.  It’s very narrative, like so much of your work.  Too, it’s not really just a sculpture, is it?  It’s more of a sculptural assemblage with attached mobile?  Yes…no?

Yes, the mobile part makes a delicate chiming noise as you move it around- as if the sound will attract the integrity.  Do you know a better way of finding it?

I love mobiles.  And what an interesting perspective on finding integrity, rather Zen-like.  That said, I hope you don’t mind my asking, are you a religious person?

I was raised catholic but I became disillusioned pretty early on with formalized religion.  I consider myself spiritual.

whaleinstall_ (dee hood and sheryl haler)“Whale” an installation by Dee Hood and Sheryl Haler

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I see an “artifact” motif in your work.  This might be a stretch, but would I be correct in suggesting that you seem to have an interest in relics and/or icons?

Not a stretch at all.   I’m fascinated by the human need to believe in something.  All over the world people create objects empowered with belief.   What I gained from Catholicism was a love of icons and ritual and the exotic.

Whenever I visit the Metropolitan Museum in New York I spend considerable time in the African wing.  I feel more resonance from some of the fetishes there than anything else I’ve ever been around.  I think It has to do with the incredible power of belief that goes into making those pieces.

I’m working on a collaborative installation about ‘belief’ now with Dolores Coe and Sheryl Haler for 2010.

Returning to the subject of your videos, they are all so hyper-real; like something out of a Timothy Leary daydream.  I especially like the one, aptly titled, “Real Life.”  Tell me about that one.

still_RealLife“Real Life” video still by Dee Hood

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Timothy Leary Daydream- what a great description!   Video is an extension of painting for me.  I’m more interested in the manipulation of the images than the photographic quality.  So I freely take artistic license.

‘Real Life’ is an exploration into the virtual world.  It’s an amazing phenomenon that we’re experiencing.   We have the opportunity to display ourselves in masked identities, not just the physical avatar but the whole persona.   It brings up all sorts of new questions and shifts in meaning:  How we construct our self -image?  What is community?  What is real…etc?

My being an eco-friendly, health-nut, I really like the H20 video.  In it I observe a strong message about sustainability and conservation.  But just to say that, doesn’t really do the video full justice.  It’s so creative!  Is there a back-story?

h20_“H2O” video still by Dee Hood

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Living in Florida we’re pretty aware of water, but not so much the issues of privatization, scarcity,  and the horrible conditions of drinking water in some parts of the world.   I wanted to do something to give people another look at this resource that we take for granted.  My friend Tim Rumage is an environmental science professor at Ringling and helps to keep me and our students informed on environmental issues.

As an educator I want my students to understand the power of the images they create. I also want them to be cognizant of being a part of humanity, part of the world.  This past semester my first year students put together a great wiki called “Studentsolve”, asking them to focus on the solutions for some of the worlds environmental problems.  They had to list their research on the wiki along with a poster, pamphlet or video to promote their favorite solutions.  We all learned a lot from this!

On your site there are (I think) a total of 5 videos available for viewing.  Have you created more?

0fish0_2“0 Fish 0” by Dee Hood and Students

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I have done other videos and I’m looking forward to starting another one soon.  I’ve done some political commentaries in the past and I think video is a great way to express these issues in a creative and dare I say ‘entertaining’ way.

I was just looking at your resume and noticed that in the early 1990’s you did a show called “Guilty Catholic Girls” which was exhibited at the Backdoor Gallery.  Holy smokes, talk about irony, that’s hilarious!  Do you remember that exhibit?

I remember it with great delight!   My husband Chris Peattie and I and another artist Patty Yontz actually started the Backdoor Gallery.  It was part of an artist colony that the city of Clearwater was supporting to try and revitalize the downtown area.   The show came about out of casual conversations with artist friends about our shared catholic backgrounds. The show WAS hilarious!  We even had a portable confessional with a tape player inside to confess your sins on.  Annette Gloomis designed that one.  Even though it was the Guilty Catholic girls show there were a few ‘bad alter boys’ in it too.

The artist colony only lasted about 6 months, but we put on some crazy shows during that time.  I think all the artists involved in that ‘experiment’ really had a blast and I know I made some life long friends.

You’re a professor at The Ringling School of Art and Design; great name for an art school.  I hate to ask, but is it related to the circus?

No relation to the circus!

Any thoughts about our digital future?

I think it’s going to continue to shift and morph into new paths for everyone especially artists.  It’s sort of like the wild  west, there’s still so much to be discovered.   This is one of my favorite quotes on the subject:

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

–Kurt Vonnegut Author, Timequake

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Dee, thanks so much for taking the time to chat.

Thank you Max, for your interest and for creating this magazine!

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Visit Dee Hood’s website here, and be sure to check out the full archive of AD Mag artist’s interviews here.

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  1. Fabulous interview. I learned a lot about my friend!

  2. Great interview ! Dee , I would love to see your videos!

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