Kris Hodson Moore: Politically Potent and Resonant Art
Written by Genie Davis
Kris Hodson Moore uses her art both as a shield and a call to arms these days, calling her body of work House Divided “my response to the election of Donald J. Trump.” She explains “That a selfish, amoral and utterly unqualified man found enough support to become president of our country horrifies me daily. I treasure our democracy and hope to live long enough to see justice prevail.”
As an artist, her work often references current events and psychology as well as environmental issues, using an intimate, painterly technique enhanced by her own printing utilizing archival inkjet technology.
With subjects as fierce as her words, Hodson Moore is a powerful and potent artist and activist. Despite that, she demurs “I am an ordinary person with no extraordinary power or political connections. But I refuse to be helpless. As an artist, I have a voice and a unique ability to express myself. Nothing is more important to our planet, our democracy, our loved ones, and our mental health than to remove this man from office.”
She says that shaping this statement through her art calms her – but it also activates. “I do what I can. I make art. I make ‘M Peach’ T-shirts. I write, email, call my representatives, donate to campaigns, and pay attention. I have subscriptions to the Washington Post online and home delivery of The New York Times and The New Yorker. I listen to podcasts about history and politics.”
Always a news junkie, she is seeing the physical vestiges of her information cycle migrate into her art. “Newspapers and magazines are finding their way into my work in the form of digital layers and mixed media collage,” she attests.
Her photographic art began in the darkroom but has transitioned to the digital age. “Having built 4 darkrooms over the years, I admit to being thrilled with digital and my computer. It’s wonderful that so many dedicated artists are bringing back the older methods, but analog is too slow for me. I will continue to leap into the future with as many new tools as I can master,” Hodson Moore asserts.
Despite the relative speed of digital art making, Hodson Moore takes her time when it comes to printing her work, although she laughs that she may take too much time and use “way too many boxes of paper and canisters of ink. I learned color printing in the darkroom at Indiana University working with Carole Fonde, a master color printer. She couldn’t believe how much paper and chemistry I wasted with tiny incremental changes.” That said, Fonde taught Hodson Moore “to see color and test at the extremes in order to find the middle. Great advice, but still my first print seems so close. Only a tiny change is needed. And is it too green or too cyan? Or too blue? It usually isn’t the cyan to red scale, she said.”
Today, Hodson Moore is still committed to seeking exactly the right color for her intensely rich works, but notes “My inefficiency is why I don’t print for other people. My demand for perfection is why no one can print for me.”
As to her subjects, she stresses “There are so many things I am interested in, but I have always loved photographing in neighborhoods. Not the fancy ones and not the dangerous ones. I love seeing how people present their homes to the world when they do the work themselves. I love to make portraits, and to me, a home is a family portrait – the toys in the yard, or garden tools, or overgrown bushes.”
She adds, “A home represents our psychological foundations, our roots and what is most personal and cherished. House Divided is born out of angst and the frustration I feel as we move toward even deeper divisions. When our government repeatedly lies to us, it cracks our foundation and shatters our trust. If I can call attention to that with a bit of humor, it might help us keep up.”
Creating split images such as the half white, half black inverse of the small home in “Pick a Side” or depicting an upper story open to the elements coupled with a completely hidden, walled ground floor in “Total Transparency,” highlight our seething divide. From the wall of a fence in “Good Neighbors” to the ironic split- frame pairing of the foundation of a home with its roof in “Not Normal,” the artist uses visual wit to point out the broken dynamics of our socio-political system and the inherent brokenness in our current government.
She plans this series will continue “until I have worn myself out or until we exorcise the demons. Devil be gone, and soon,” she says.
Past work shows equal substance and passion, such as her lush, often blurred images in Soul of a Woman, which serve as an expression of time passing and the experience of an aging woman in today’s youth-focused world. Her Fly Away series gives us plastic as vise, mask, and literally suffocating horror, viscerally tackling the environmental disaster its convenience has created.
Also environmentally focused, her close-up Plant Portraits series portrays the intricate beauty and wonder of nature in gorgeous, tactile colors.
But regardless of subject or impetus, Hodson Moore’s dedication to perfection and precise, alive imagery is electrifying. Whether illustrating the wonder of nature or the ugliness of American politics, the artist’s images hit their mark and leave a resonant reminder of their aim on the viewer.