There is a lot of squawking around Hunt Slonem these days and it’s not just the noise from his 60 plus cockatoos and Macaws. Ironically, the prolific and colorful New York based artist was recently featured on Squawk Box discussing the art world and it’s relationship to the stock market. Hunt Slonem, who is known for his thick, multicolored and hand etched paintings of rabbits, cockatoos, butterflies and Abraham Lincoln is being discussed as a luxury brand to follow since he is moving into other types of creative collaborations. He is doing outdoor sculptures and giant commissions, wallpaper and rugs with Lee Jofa home decor and a collaboration with Echo Designs on totes and scarves.
Is he worried about watering down his work in the art world? I had a chance to sit down with him among friends to ask him about how one of the most prolific and well-known artists of our time is seeing the art world today.
Meet Hunt Slonem:
Ivy: Hunt, I know you keep lots of cockatoos and Macaw parrots that have been the inspiration for much of your work. How many do you have now?
Hunt: I have over 60 birds in an aviary in my studio. There’s a lot of squawking going on in the background. They all have names and they are really beautiful. I’m getting a new one this week. People call me from everywhere to take them in because they know that I love them. So when someone dies that had one or they move and need a place…people call me. I even had National Geographic call me. They were doing a study on Macaws and whether or not they are left or right handed….or clawed. Turns out they are left.
Ivy: How do you take care of all of them?
Hunt: Oh, I have a guy that comes in at 6 am in the morning and it takes him five hours just to feed them. And somebody else comes in later in the day to check on them and make sure they are all healthy and take care of any that need attending.
Ivy: We have one of your paintings with parrots and I just love it because it shows all this movement, flapping, and color. I always say it is a reflection of my family ….all talking at once and in motion. My decorators, Celerie Kemble and Lindsey Herod chose the lacquer green background color for the room and our good friend Elizabeth Galtney tried lots of paintings there until we saw the birds.
Hunt: Oh, Celerie is a friend of mine too and of course we both love Elizabeth. In yours, you have the hatch marks that I make by scritch scratching a grid with the back of the handle of the brush. It creates the cage effect. (I think he told me he broke something off to get the shape or sharpness to create this effect).
Ivy: The painting just popped. Tell me about the bunnies, do you have live bunnies too?
Hunt: No, I don’t have bunnies but the bunnies just keep coming and coming and bubbling up. I even dream about bunnies. I’m working on some really large commissions right now….Fifty foot tall paintings. I have done some murals as well. I love doing the giant ones. It’s really fun. I also do a lot of outdoor sculpture too. Those are great but take a lot of work.
Ivy: I know you are traveling a lot. Tell me what cultures seem to be drawn to your work and where you are going these days. (Hunt has had over 300 one man shows around the world)
Hunt: I’m all over the map really…..several days a week. I just got back from Dubai. Russia is very responsive to my work. I received the medal of merit from the Russian Academy of Art. Canada, Asia. Asia is a strong market for me. And of course right here in the US as well.
Ivy: How do you find the time to paint during the week with so much going on? Is it hard to switch back and forth between traveling to gallery shows and creative work?
Hunt: No, not for me. I just love the work. I sometimes go in to my studio at 6 am and paint all through the day and then travel the next day.
Ivy: How has your work and the art world in general changed over the years?
Hunt: Now, with technology and social media an artist can be out in front of more people. An artist can become even larger because of the exposure. Also, there are so many directions my art can go. People are talking about it as a brand rather than just art which has opened doors to new ways for me to present my art and now we have fabrics and wall papers and all kinds of directions that it’s taking.It’s really endless.
Ivy: Are you afraid that all these bunnies or exposure will water down your art?
Hunt: No, I mean Picasso, Andy Warhol …so many others were prolific and their work is everywhere but is valuable. I’m just creating and enjoying all the avenues that will take my work.
(When I asked him what he likes to do to relax, he beamed over his passion)
Ivy: You have another passion that really makes you light up. Tell me about it.
Hunt: I also restore historic buildings and homes. (with this he pulled out his phone to show me the photos of his babies) I have a home on some beautiful property in South Louisiana with giant oak trees. (the photos show a beautiful old mansion on acreage with trees dripping with moss). The home is a labor of love and I’m decorating the rooms to the period of the house. It was built in 1837 and its a plantation home on 10 acres. I like to collect gothic sofas and other period pieces so it’s all decorated in 19th century decor. I really relax there and slow down.
Ivy: You have a new book out in the past year and a half that I just love. Thank you for signing mine. It looks at your love of the bunnies.
Hunt: Yes, I just really love painting the bunnies. I usually paint some in the morning as a warm up to my day. I like to play with scale and perspective. I find these small portrait frames from the 19th century and like to hang lots of them together.
Ivy: Thank you, Hunt for chatting and we hope your time in Houston is great. It was a pleasure to see you again.
Hunt: It was a pleasure to be here.