August 4th, 2021
Gazing into one of Hunt Slonem’s paintings feels like falling through a Lewis Carroll novel into a world of vibrant whimsy, where the physical realm of nostalgic reality collides and converges with the spiritual realm of exotic mysticism. With each colorful brush stroke, Slonem beckons viewers to melt into these ethereal worlds held within ornate gilded frames. Now, as Hunt Slonem introduces glass and bronze sculpture to his oeuvre for the first time in his career, we marvel as his works break free from their frames, tumbling out of wonderland and into the world around us.
“Working with glass is like working in the ethers.” – Hunt Slonem
Enthralled by Slonem’s introduction of new media, we sat down for an exclusive interview with the artist to discover more about his new work’s inspiration, process, and evolution. Surrounded by the vivid colors and textures of his own creations, Hunt Slonem chats with us from his New York City Studio, interrupted only by the faint squawks of his nearly 60 pet birds. While his beautiful birds may fill his studio with their song, it’s Slonem’s beloved bunnies that make a first appearance in his sculptural work. As Slonem often says, “Rabbits are always welcome.”
Although Slonem has dabbled in three dimensional forms in the past, from wooden carvings to monumental metal sculptures, this past year’s commitment to glass and bronze sculpture is a first for the artist. For the majority of his career, Hunt Slonem has painted solo in his studio. Each brushstroke is made by his hand, bright remnants of a gestural language between artist and canvas. Now Slonem ushers in a new era of artistic collaboration, sharing his creative process with his team of artisan glass blowers and bronze founders. “It’s like adding extra hands to your body,” Slonem says.
“This has opened up a whole horizon of future projects and big installation ideas. It’s like adding extra hands to your body.”
– Hunt Slonem
While Slonem embraces the freedom that this collaboration allows, he also recognizes the inherent challenges of this new media: “With painting, I’m entirely absorbed in it. I paint from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep. With sculpture, it’s not as entirely consuming, because I can’t be in 12 places at the same time. So I try to meditate more and try to get it by osmosis and the divine all-seeing eye rather than being right there as each piece is in creation.”
The strength of Slonem’s spirituality pours out of every aspect of his life and process, enabling him to bridge worlds of seeming dichotomy through his work, where the physical marries with the spiritual until the boundaries between the two realms dissipate into luminous color. His sculptural process is no exception. “Working with glass is like working in the ethers,” Slonem says, “It’s highly spiritual in that you can see through veils of color and veils of transparency, in every sense of the word. You can play with hundreds of subtleties of color and nuances of iridescence. It’s just another world of experience inside.” The process of artistic creation then becomes, in itself, a spiritual experience, creating works which are, all at once, meditatively peaceful and dynamically energizing.
The resplendence of each piece is only amplified when the sculptures are arranged together. “Even the way [the sculptures] are grouped is an important thing for me, which is something very new,” Slonem explains, “My paintings are always hung in Salon style, which is sort of an old fashioned idea, but I just love it. So this is like a spatial Salon style installation.” The sculptures’ portability allows ever greater freedom in their arrangement than in painting installations, so that each grouping may be arranged and rearranged in new iterations, refracting new angles of light into prisms of color. “It’s just like discovering a crystal cave,” Slonem marvels, “They actually emit a positive vibration.” Together in new arrangements and new light, the glass sculptures’ overlapping colors and textures create ever-evolving interpretations of beauty and allure.
“Working with bronze is the fulfillment of a dream.” – Hunt Slonem
Slonem emphasizes how exciting this new sculptural work is “on both a physical and spiritual level,” all the while clutching a string of rosary beads. He often compares the repetition in his work to praying on a rosary or saying a daily mantra. Despite this repetition — or, arguably, because of it — each sculpture takes on a unique quality of delicate distinction. There is a spontaneity to each piece: a testament to the inescapable authenticity of the artists’ expression as he guides his team of artisan glass blowers through the works’ creation. Once again, we see how Slonem’s work lives within the liminal space of sublime paradoxes: repetitive yet fresh, disciplined yet spontaneous, tactile yet celestial.
The way in which Slonem’s work defies rigid categorization is never more apparent than in his new bronze sculptures. If glass work is like working in the ethers of heaven, then bronze is like working in the depths of the earth, and Slonem has been eagerly prepared to delve into their elements. “I already use diamond dust and metal powders in my work, but bronze is something I’ve always wanted to work with. It’s very weighty and people take it so seriously as a medium,” Slonem says. Pushing the boundaries of the perceived severity of the medium, Slonem’s bronze sculptures balance masterfully between playfulness and austerity. Working with bronze, one of the oldest artistic mediums, for the first time in his career has been “the fulfillment of a dream.”
Throughout our conversation, Hunt Slonem’s excitement over this new sculptural media is palpable. Now that Slonem has met the right team of collaborators to support his sculptural vision, the floodgates for creative ideation have broken wide: “This has opened up a whole horizon of future projects and big installation ideas. We’re just constantly coming up with new series ideas… I just can’t believe it’s taken me this long in life to get to this point.” Regardless of the path it took to get here, we share the artists’ enthusiasm for what this introduction of new media means for the future of his work.
Written by Veronica Vale