Hunt Slonem (American, born 1951)
Called a Neo-Expressionist, Hunt Slonem combines Abstract Expressionist techniques with mysticism and animal subjects and is best known for his paintings of tropical birds, based on a personal aviary containing around one hundred rescued live birds of various species and bunnies. He uses an abstract platform for his traditional subject matter, developed with gestured brushwork and bold Warholesque repetitive compositions. Fascinated by the manipulation of paint, the artist works quickly and creates jarring color juxtapositions, developing multiple canvases simultaneously. Slonem treats each canvas in a base coat of orange-red, a tool borrowed from the old masters to create luminosity. The artist paints areas of the canvas, building layers side by side as well as one on top of the next. He works on each area swiftly, allowing the paint to dry just enough before applying cross-hatching with the opposite end of his paint brush. The scratched grids that cover the forms beneath exert a literal bondage and a protective domain, the visual effect of which is spellbinding. The textures achieved by Slonem’s trade-mark etching capture light and further emphasize the ethereal nature Slonem bestows upon his beloved subjects.
Born in Kittery Maine, he spent his childhood moving from state to state as his father was a Naval Officer, spending time on both coasts and in Hawaii. While studying at Tulane, Slonem traveled in Mexico and Nicaragua – each a foundation for his love of nature, color and animals. In the early 70s, he moved to New York and started using Nicaraguan holy cards as subject matter for paintings. In the 1980s, after three trips to India, his work became more formal and complex in composition, with his signature hatch marks appearing around 1988.