An exhibition of compelling photography and video images, created over several decades by nationally known Tennessee photographer Jack Stoddart, opened at the State Museum
on November 13th. The exhibit, Renaissance Jack: The Work of Jack Stoddart Hippies, Hill People & Other Southern Marvels, will be on view in the museums Changing Galleries through January 3, 2010.
The exhibition marks the debut presentation of the Plateau Collection, a series of black-and-white, sepia-toned photographs recently acquired for the State Museums permanent collection, which represent the life of subsistence farmers, beginning with the decade of the 1970s.
Jacks work embodies the perspective of a friend and neighbor and reveals a particular spirit which was once central to life on the Cumberland Plateau, noted Lois Riggins-Ezzell, executive director of the museum.
Stoddarts photography, which is widely acclaimed, is also held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington and the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia.
Known as an old-school photographer, Stoddart uses archival silver gelatin prints, traditionally processed by the artist in his studio darkroom. Many of the exhibition images are custom-toned or hand- tinted by Stoddart. Film-based photography has now become a rarely used process: the photographic work in this exhibition is an homage to an art form that is in itself becoming historic, according to Stoddart.
Stoddart, who moved his family to Middle Tennessee in 1972, captured a now-vanishing way of rural life in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee. A long-time resident of the area, he personally knew his subjects, and, in spite of the stereotypical views of the time, which depicted his community as impoverished and ignorant, Stoddart found beauty in the simplicity and strong work ethic of the residents everyday life. He was granted the rare opportunity to document the daily activities of the Muddy Pond Mennonite Community, where his family shopped at the co-operative grocery. Dedicated sections of the gallery will feature these photographs.
During the same time period, Stoddart and his family often traveled through Nashville when selling his work at artisan shows. Continuing his desire to document change, he photographed the landmarks and personalities of the Volunteer States capital city. A selection of these prints will also be featured in the exhibit, ranging from the 1970s through 2000, as well as videotaped recordings of local songwriters and performers. Rare footage of entertainer Celinda Pink, a renowned blues singer active on the downtown club circuit, will also be included in the exhibition?
A section of the gallery will be devoted to documentation of Stoddarts children, as they grew and evolved in their rural surroundings. Stoddart reveals the story of his decision to turn from full-time work as a still photographer to partner with his family in beginning his current vocation: recording roots music performances. In 2006, the Stoddart clan began hosting an annual Americana music festival on the family farm, aptly entitled, Jammin at Hippie Jacks.
In 2008, the music festival expanded into a series of Jammin at Hippie Jacks performances, featuring original singer-songwriters in the Americana, Bluegrass, Roots, Folk and Blues genres. The series is currently broadcast on PBS affiliate WCTE-TV in Middle Tennessee and in Nashville and 130 other PBS affiliates across the country. Sessions are recorded at two locations: the outdoor venue, 'Sundown Stage', on Stoddarts Cumberland Plateau family farm and at the State Museum's Buffalo Bill Stage in downtown Nashville.
Visitors who attend the exhibition will be able to view previously taped performances from the televised Jammin at Hippie Jacks series. The public is invited to attend the free upcoming TV tapings and to visit the exhibit of Stoddarts work during taping intermissions. On the evening of November 20, Jammin at Hippie Jacks will feature ASCAP Songwriter of the Year and Grammy-nominee Darrell Scott with musician Kenny Malone. Audience members attending the December 18 taping will hear the music of Grammy-winning, country/folk, multi-instrumentalist Tim O'Brien. Both performances begin at 6 p.m. at the museum and are free and open to the public.
Renaissance Jack: The Work of Jack Stoddart Hippies, Hill People & Other Southern Marvels continues through January 3, 2010 at the State Museum.