Hunt Slonem (b. July 18, 1951), the internationally renowned American artist, developed his fascination with exotica during time spent in Hawaii as a child and his experience as a foreign exchange student in Managua, Nicaragua.
Since 1977, Slonem has had more than 250 exhibitions at prestigious galleries. His work is exhibited globally, including in Madras, Quito, Venice, Gustavia, San Juan, Guatemala City, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Stockholm, Oslo, Cologne, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Over 80 museums internationally include his work in their collections, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His work has been shown in more than 40 museum exhibitions. In 1991 he won the National Endowment for the Arts Grants in Painting and the MacDowell Fellowships in 1983, 1984 and 1986. He is represented internationally by the Marlborough Gallery in New York City.
Since 1973, Slonem has lived and worked in New York City in his legendary loft with 70 pet birds, which are his models. So enmeshed and unique are his aviary, studio, lifestyle and painting, that Slonem has been featured on television and in print numerous times. In his 1993 essay, “Hunt Slonem” (Kunst Editions/Jano Group) the late Henry Geldzahler describes, “The visual field of Hunt Slonem’s paintings is a continuum accented by ovals of varying shapes and colors that it turns out are birds.” The birds evolved from Slonem’s early paintings of saints as well as inspiration from the pioneers of bird imagery in painting, including Fabritsius, Heade and Audobon. While Audubon killed 100 birds for each painting, Slonem instead is a slave to his: he spends the first two hours of each day caring for them, the rest of the day painting them.
To Slonem, his birds symbolize the soul and spiritual liberation. Frequent trips to India have nurtured the artist’s spirituality, and his work depicts his reverence for exotic life forms, including birds, which he believes are one of the greatest treasures of the earth that 60 million years of uninterrupted evolution have created in the rain forest. As many of these birds are now extinct, Slonem’s images of them are a plea to the viewer to look at these creatures before they disappear from the planet. Poet & critic John Ashbery observed in “Hunt’s Place” (disegnodiverso), “From the narrow confines of his grids, half cage, half perch, Slonem summons dazzling explosions of the variable life around us that needs only to be looked at in order to spring into being.”
Hunt Slonem studied painting at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University of Louisiana in 1973. Currently, the artist is the subject of a feature-length documentary shot by Albert Maysles, the legendary documentary filmmaker (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens, Truman Capote.) In 2010 a survey of 30 years of Hunt’s work will be published by Vendome Publishers, NY; text by Dominique Nahas.