KENNEBUNK, Maine — KW Contemporary Art presents the first solo exhibition of Hunt Slonem’s work. Slonem’s iconic neo-expressionist works capture the imagination and allow us to escape into new worlds. In Midsummer Dreams we explore these worlds and the dreams they create. Bucolic, shimmering butterfly wings and whimsical bunnies together create a world of beauty and bounty. Each lush brushstroke brings a new flight of fancy that prompts us to ponder the world. Do we create our dreams or do our dreams create us?
Inspired by nature and his 60 pet birds, Hunt Slonem is known for his distinctive neo-expressionist style. He is best known for his series of bunnies, butterflies and tropical birds, as well as his large-scale sculptures and restorations of forgotten historic houses. Slonem’s works can be found in the permanent collections of 250 museums worldwide, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Whitney, the Miro Foundation, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
His ingenuity and admiration for faraway destinations has been a staple of his life since childhood. Slonem was born in 1951 in Kittery, Maine, and his father’s position as a Navy officer meant that the family moved frequently during Hunt’s formative years, including extended stays in Hawaii, California, and Connecticut. He would continue to seek travel opportunities throughout his young adult years, studying abroad in Nicaragua and Mexico; these eye-opening experiences imbued him with an appreciation for tropical landscapes that would influence his unique style.
Hunt Slonem tends to embrace the ephemeral beauty of nature, a characteristic that brings a nurturing, spiritual effect to his creations. Throughout his extensive career as a New York artist, Slonem has favored the subject of exotic birds, rabbits and butterflies. Recently, his compositions consist of flat spaces with simple shapes pushed to the front of the picture plane. The artist creates exotic forms with expressive and highly textured brushwork, full of intense color, loosely inspired by artists of the German Expressionist movement such as Ernst Ludwig and Emil Nolde. Henry Geldzahler, a Hunt Slonem scholar, notes that of contemporary artists, “he particularly admires the work of Malcolm Morely, Francesco Clemente, and Roberto Juarez, all exoticists whose works convey a spiritual aura. Lest we leave the impression, belied by the paintings, that Slonem is all depth and piety, we must note that there is an extraordinary levity in his work, an ease of being.”
Slonem has always had a strong connection with the subjects he represents in his work. As a child, Slonem first felt a connection to birds while living in Hawaii, which deepened further during his time in Central America, where he was inspired by the people’s devotion and spiritual enthusiasm. The fascination continued into adulthood; he not only admires colorful animals from afar, but also collects exotic birds, which live with him in his studio in New York. The lush studio is a sanctuary for the animals and the artist. His constant companions fly and chatter around him throughout the day helping Slonem capture his immediate surroundings with pace and style. Poet and art critic John Ashbery describes Slonem’s depiction of these ephemeral creatures as, “dazzling bursts of changing life around us, that need only be seen to be born.” Slonem creates beautiful, surprising scenes that offer a soothing joy to those who encounter them.
The opening reception will be held on Saturday, August 6, from 5 to 8 pm at 184 Port Road, Kennebunk, and is open to the public.