There are anywhere from 30 to 100 birds that live in Hunt Slonem’s 30,000 square-foot Brooklyn-based studio, and it’s not uncommon for one to be perched on the artist’s shoulder as he paints an exotic interpretation of his feathered friend. In an interview with Architectural Digest just last month, Hunt Slonem explained that he keeps his birds in close proximity to his easel because they provide “an endless source of inspiration.” He says, “I paint from them, so they are working animals in my subject matters. I also often ask them what they think of things, and I get responses of sorts.”
Birds, released on February 17th, is Slonem’s highly anticipated book and first comprehensive compilation of his ornithological body of work. Slonem’s vibrant renderings of parrots, parakeets and other tropical birds were initially influenced by his travels to Nicaragua, where he spent time as an exchange student in high school, and Hawaii, where Slonem lived on a military base with his family as a young boy. Slonem continues to travel extensively to places like India, Mexico, Haiti and Scandinavia for renewed inspiration. By painting his birds wet-on-wet, a technique that the artist describes as “drawing in paint,” Slonem creates tangible texture with crosshatched patterns that denote wire enclosures over the animals. The birds themselves are layered on the canvas with thick brushwork and rich colors, creating dazzling compositions that celebrate the tropical vibrancy of their subjects.
Parakeets, Slonem, 48×48″ oil/canvas
Finches, Slonem, 31×61″ oil/canvas
In the studio
Another iconic figure in Slonem’s repertoire is the bunny, which he started to focus on in the 1980s after discovering he was born in the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac calendar. The gestural, repetitive strokes that make up Slonem’s bunny paintings have become the artist’s signature style and were the subject of his first publication, Bunnies, released in 2014. Painting bunnies is Slonem’s morning ritual; he begins everyday with several “warm-ups,” populating small panels with quick strokes that make up the animal’s familiar portrait. This repetition was slightly inspired by Pop art, such as Andy Warhol’s soup cans and celebrities, and is now a morning meditation for Slonem. The act of repeated imagery, which also shows up in his bird and butterfly paintings, is a spiritual mantra for the artist.
In the studio: Slonem’s “Bunny Wall.” Photo by Adam Golfer for The Wall Street Journal
Simon, Slonem, 12×10″ oil
Slonem’s work is in the permanent collections of over 250 museums, galleries, corporations and institutions around the globe, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His paintings are collected by the likes of Kris Jenner, Whoopi Goldberg, Jimmy Fallon and more, and he is consistently teaming up with different companies or charities for continued relevancy. His bunnies and his own exuberant style led him to fame in the fashion and design world; he collaborated with Jason Wu for the Grey Jason Wu fashion label and was also enlisted by Audi to create the “Hunt Slonem Audi A5” that was eventually auctioned off to benefit cancer research.
Slonem/Jason Wu designs for the Grey Jason Wu fashion label
Slonem’s bunnies are often displayed in formal gilt frames, which juxtapose their simplistic style and make the boldly colored panels pop off the wall. This salon-style design that can be found in Slonem’s studio has been transformed into wallpaper, carpet and fabric.
Slonem with his Bunny Wall wallpaper
Bunny wallpaper in one of Slonem’s New York residences
Slonem’s Neo-Expressionist paintings are renowned in today’s art world for their vivacious color and exuberant creator. Check out Artsy’s recent artist feature on Slonem and virtually tour his aviary/studio with Architectural Digest.
Click here to see Pippin Contemporary’s inventory of Hunt Slonem paintings. You can purchase his work from our website or call the gallery for more information at 505-795-7476.