"Our Living Past" Opens at the Museum - The Birthplace of Country Music
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“Our Living Past” Opens at the Museum

Bristol, Tenn./Va. (April 20, 2021) – A new special exhibit of stunning tintype portraits is now open at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Our Living Past: Platinum Portraits of Southern Music Makers features the work of Timothy Duffy, founder of the Music Maker Relief Foundation. His subjects are a diverse mix of musicians, some well-known and others a bit more under-the-radar, but each of them share a passion for the music they play that shines through in their portraits. Several pieces of folk art created by Music Maker artists will also be on display with the photographs.

The Music Maker special exhibit We Are the Music Makers: Preserving the Soul of America’s Music was displayed at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in 2016.

“Birthplace of Country Music celebrates the origins of our nation’s music, a mission that has always been close to my heart,” said Duffy. “I am so proud to partner with them again to bring attention to the musicians in this exhibition. It is unheralded artists living in small communities throughout the South that have created the deep aquifer of American roots music that contemporary musicians from all over the world drink from daily.”

Duffy has been photographing musicians in the South for 35 years. The Our Living Past exhibit features portraits of artists and still lifes of Southern scenes in the form of 25 palladium prints created from Duffy’s wet-plate photographs. Artists like the late, great soul singer Sharon Jones, slide guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks, and blues legend Taj Mahal  appear in the exhibit alongside those of lesser-known blues and gospel artists Dr. Dixon, Algia Mae Hinton, and Lena Mae Perry. A portrait of traditional roots singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Martha Spencer is also included in the exhibit. Spencer is a native of Southwest Virginia who tours internationally with her authentic brand of Appalachian music; she also regularly performs at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, returning this September as part of the trio The Blue Ridge Girls. 

“The museum worked with the Music Maker Relief Foundation several years ago, and we love the work they do to support roots musicians, amplify their voices, and bring their music and experiences to new audiences,” said Head Curator René Rodgers. “I think that our visitors will really enjoy the Our Living Past exhibit – the images draw you in to the musicians’ world and the way that Duffy captures their gaze seems to exemplify the saying that ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul.’ We are also excited to be able to share some of the folk art pieces created by Music Maker artists as they bring color and vibrancy to the black-and-white images on display.”

These striking and evocative images offer a glimpse into the rich historical narrative and vital culture of Southern traditional music. Duffy’s life work – to preserve that culture – now takes on a tangible form through Our Living Past and works to ensure that these important living links to our history get the recognition they deserve. 

Related programming to the special exhibit will include an interview with Music Maker Relief Foundation co-founder Denise Duffy on the WBCM Radio Bristol program Museum Talk with Rene & Scotty on Thursday, April 29 at noon EDT and a Virtual Speaker Series presentation by Tim Duffy on Tuesday, July 6 at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Radio Bristol can be accessed on the air in the Bristol area at 100.1 FM, and the show will stream live online at ListenRadioBristol.org and through the station’s free mobile app.

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