Haunted by South Louisiana, the widely collected painter opens his most ambitious exhibition ever at UAM.
When painter Hunt Slonem’s one-man exhibition opens Saturday, May 15 at the Paul & Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, it will be without precedent, both for the museum and the artist. “It’s the largest show on that scale I’ve ever done,” Slonem admits. It will also be the first time Slonem’s work has hung in a Lafayette museum.
“We’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to sort of highlight our community through the eyes of this artist for a couple of years,” says UAM Director Mark Tullos.
Slonem has been profiled in publications ranging from Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest and ArtNews to The Jeanerette Enterprise and Hudson Valley Magazine. His colorful style is matched only by his personal style — bright and bold, defiant, and even dismissive of the avant garde. Yet his work, described variously as abstract expressionism and pop art, resides in major collections across North America and Europe including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art and the Smithsonian Institution. When the New York-based artist spoke to The Independent by telephone last week he was in Boston to open an exhibition; he had just returned from Bulgaria for another exhibition of his work.
Hunt Slonem is a jetset celebrity artist, but he seeks regular respite at a pair of plantation homes he owns in South Louisiana. And it is the flora and fauna of this area, and the bayous that bisect it and the ghostly mansions that haunt it, that serve as the inspiration for “Hunt Slonem on the Bayou.” Works for the UAM show — 18 massive 9’x9’ oil on canvas paintings filling 5,500 square feet of exhibit space — were created exclusively for the museum; they have not been exhibited before. The 48-page brochure for the exhibition features the paintings in the exhibition interspersed with excerpts from the works of Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque and New Iberia novelist James Lee Burke.
It was the UAM staff that approached Slonem a couple of years ago about creating the exhibit, says curator Lee Gray, who helped guide the process. “I thought that his connection to Louisiana was really valuable, and I thought that if he could tie what he was doing to that, I thought that would be really special.”
When the paintings arrived from Slonem’s New York studio, Gray lined them up to begin thinking about groupings for the museum’s walls and quickly found a pattern: “To me it looks like the seasons. He has two very abstract pieces; they end up being on either end. But when I look at them, I see seasons. I’m not sure that he was thinking along those lines — I think he just painted as things came to him. He’s so prolific, I think he just kind of gets in the zone and does his thing. But the way I’ve actually organized it is to start with winter and move through the seasons of the year.”
Slonem’s paintings, well known for the bird, rabbit and monkey motifs that are often repeated ad infinitum, fetch as much as $100,000, a handsome sum for a living artist, and he enjoys the reputation as a bon vivant in the privileged social circles of New York City where he lives most of the year. Hunt Slonum is to Gotham what George Rodrigue is to the Gulf Coast — a colorful, collectable brand and a must-have addition to patrician parlors.
So it is understandable that the 58-year-old Slonem has the financial wherewithal to own not only sprawling, exclusive real estate in Manhattan, but to also collect his mail at two historic Louisiana plantation homes — Albania, on Bayou Teche in St. Mary Parish south of Jeanerette, and Lakeside in Point Coupee Parish. He became transfixed by Louisiana’s antebellum character as a student in the early 1970s at Tulane University where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. Slonem says he now spends about 10 days per month between the two homes, entertaining guests and soaking in the moss-festooned live oaks.
“People say why do you have two [plantation homes],” he jokes, “and I say, ‘Because I can’t afford 100.”
Something of a Victorian spiritualist, Slonem famously told the news program CBS Sunday Morning that he channels spirits when he works. Imagine an artist like this padding around a 180-year-old plantation home. “O, yeah,” he sighs matter-of-factly, “I have a lot of mystic friends who have visited, and I pretty much know a lot of what goes on there in the other dimensions. ...There’s a lot of dark energies that we’re trying to move to the light. We have a little boy ghost who lives at Lakeside who likes to move people’s shoes and call their names in the night.”
“Hunt Slonem on the Bayou” opens to the public on Saturday, May 15 and will remain at the Paul & Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum until Dec. 4.
Casual cool for Thanksgiving
Shop Lafayette goes strong
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
A divided 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette district judge’s ruling absolving the co-owner of a New Iberia accounting firm of liability in an embezzlement case.
Our View: It’s reasonable, temporary and invests in Lafayette’s future.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
Three bedroom in Port Barre or two bedroom in Opelousas
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.