Hunt Slonem’s works are sublimely decorative yet deeply spiritual. They are full of light and color, exotic birds, animals and Hollywood stars. But most of all, he is known for his Bunnies from his Bunny series. His art celebrates the glory of life while highlighting the threat our civilization poses to the natural world. Slonem’s canvases emphasize an aesthetic of eye activity; the viewer’s eye is in almost constant motion to take in the entire rectangle.
Hunt Slonem wakes up every morning and captures rabbits on canvas. These warm-up exercises are what John Berendt calls “the artistic equivalent of gymnastics, exercising his painting apparatus to gain control of the colors, shapes, and textures that flow from his mind’s eye through his arm, hand, and brush onto the painted surface.”
Hunt Slonem paints countless other subjects, but rabbits are always the start of his day. Like the white rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” they lead him down the rabbit hole into the wonderland where the rest of his paintings are located.
Monet had his water lilies. Dali had his soft watches. Warhol had his Campbell soup cans, I have my bunnies.Hunt Slonem
Hunt Slonem started painting some rabbits every day a long time ago. About thirty years ago he had an exhibition in Richmond, and like all young artists no money for modern frames. He went to the flea market a lot and started buying 19th century photo frames. There was a standard 8×10 inch format. He started working in that format. The frames changed the way he worked. He bought gallons of white paint to paint wet on wet. That was the big breakthrough for Hunt Slonem.
He started doing these little studies to fit the frames wet on wet.
Why he chose bunnies of all things he doesn’t know today. He liked them and had them as pets all his life.
Besides, he just liked the shape and they are cuddly. One night he was eating at the Chinese restaurant and looked down and thought to himself that he was the sign of the rabbit. So maybe they are all some kind of self-portrait?
At Home with Hunt Slonem, Susanna Salk, 2017
Hunt Slonem likes the idea of repetition. For him, it’s like divinity. Why is grass green? And why do so many different, unique blades of grass make it up? Why are the leaves covered by trees, no two of which are exactly alike? Why do people pray the rosary and repeat certain things? He has followed many Hindu practices throughout his life, and we repeat mantras he says. So repetition and divinity go hand in hand for Him. He repeated everything. He has repeated everything he has done in life a million times, he says. It’s almost hard for him to give up painting. He is constantly repeating. I also believe that every time you do it, you get a little better, he says.
Ask Hunt Slonem about his role models and he gushes:
“I would say my number one is Picasso. But I like different people for different reasons. Warhol is a great inspiration, not necessarily painterly. I really like the work of Cindy Sherman. I like the work of Richard Sexton. He’s a photographer from New Orleans. I also love Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. There are millions of inspirations. I love American painting of the Victorian era.
The white rabbit from Lewis Carrol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” also comes up again and again at Hunt Slonem. There’s the idea of altered states and alternate realities there, and of course connected to that is the concept of madness, which plays a big part in this book. It’s a wonderful, magical reference. It’s a reference that inspired all of us in our childhood.
The whole idea of alternate realities and alternatives to authority, a bit of rebellion. There’s the big and small, high and low. The whole tea party scene. Hunt Slonem always has a full set of old Parisian china dishes on the table in his house. People come and eat on paper plates set on top of them, moving from seat to seat. The whole idea of the ongoing event….
The most famous rabbit painting in the world is probably the rabbit by Albrecht Dürer who lived in Nuremberg.
Then there’s the movie Harvey. There’s Bugs Bunny. There’s a whole book about rabbits and art, and it’s pretty amazing. People have always been fascinated with painting rabbits, going back to the Middle Ages. Rats aren’t painted as much, even though they’re both rodents. There’s just something about rabbits that people love. There’s something charming about them. When Hunt Slonem was a child, people carried rabbits’ feet for good luck. They were a symbol of fertility and reproduction.
So, when asked about his death, he also says, ” I want people to say what they want. I paint. I have color in my veins. It may seem silly today to want to paint when there are so many other forms of expression. But I grew up with art, and I just love to paint, and have since I was a kid. I paint whether anyone likes it or not. I hope I’m remembered because I remind people to pay more attention to nature. It is disappearing so fast that I hope we will still have wild rabbits in the near future. I hope my work lasts. That’s the hope. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because I have to.
Hunt Slonem lives in his Manhattan studio amid countless birds, antique furniture and, of course, his paintings.
He now collects old houses like other people collect art. The child of a naval officer and a housewife, he grew up in the middle class, but his career allowed him to invest in real estate. In the summer of 2021, he bought an antique castle for $3.25 million. It’s not his only property – the artist has renovated seven and owns six more, including three antebellum homes in Louisiana.
“These houses are like huge playgrounds to me, a blank palette of larger-than-life structures. I collect without knowing where things will go.”
“The things he buys and the houses he buys are sort of orphaned in his mind, and he keeps them,” he said.
At the same time, Slonem seems to reconnect the houses with the people who built them.
“I follow an intuitive sense of space and color,” he said. “They are like works of art of mine – a large, unfolding body of work.”
2023 is the Year of the Rabbit (兔年) in the Chinese zodiac calendar. Known for his Bunny Paintings is the US American artist Hunt Slonem. He is an internationally recognized American painter, sculptor and printmaker. He exhibits regularly in public and private venues around the world. His work has been exhibited in more than 350 galleries and museums worldwide and is represented in over one hundred museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
Other famous works by artist Hunt Slonem are:
Hunt Slonem: A Retrospective, Louisiana State Museums November 21, 2023 – September 30, 2024
Kunstforum Vienna, Die Welt der Exotik, Vienna, Austria
Pretty in Pink, Galerie de Bellefeuille, Canada
Hunt Slonem at Martine Chaisson Gallery, New Orleans, LA
Closing Reception with Hunt Slonem, DTR Modern, Boston
Lepus Cuniculus, Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Hunt Slonem: Fluffle Hutch, Diehl Gallery, Jackson, WY
Hunt Slonem: Midsummer Dreams, KW Contemporary Art, Kennebunk, ME
Hunt Slonem’s Magical World, The Art Museum Riga Bourse, Riga, Lettland
Hunt Slonem: Fantasia, Osthaus Museum Hagen, Deutschland
Hunt Slonem: Catch Me If You Can, Gallery Mar, Park City, UT
Weinberger Fine Art, Kansas City, MI
Hunt Slonem: Vivid, Samuel Owen Gallery, Greenwich, CT
„Multicoloured world of Hunt Slonem“, The Siauliai Ausros Museum, Siauliai, Litauen
„Hunt Country“, Berkshire Botanical Garden, Stockbridge, MA
Hunt Slonem: Down the Rabbit Hole Adventure into the Unknown, Miller Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
Venice Biennale, Italien
National Arts Club Solo Exhibition, New York
Hunt Slonem: Birds, Bunnies and Butterflies, Douglas Flanders & Associates Fine Art Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
Hawk Gallery, Columbus, OH
K Contemporary, Denver, CO
Merritt Gallery & Renaissance Fine Arts, Chevy Chase, MD
Madelyn Jordon Fine Art, Scarsdale, NY
Bonner David Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ
Golisano Childern’s Museum of Naples, Naples, FL
DTR Boston, Boston, MA
Madison Gallery, Solana Beach, CA
Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Centre, Daugavpils, Latvia
The Art Museum Riga Bourse, Riga, Latvia
National Gallery of Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria
Madison Gallery, LaJolla, CA
Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Exhibit by Aberson, Tulsa, OK
Miller Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
Harmon Meek, Naples, FL
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