When all else fails, looking at something beautiful can put things right again. Or if not to put right, to remind. To remind us that there is beauty in abundance in this sometimes-ugly world, and that it is often created by people who are talented, disciplined, and devoted to using and celebrating their God-given gifts.
We all have these gifts, by the way; if not for art perhaps for music, math, cooking, crocheting, you know what I mean. Are we using them? Are we celebrating them? Just askin’.
A visit to acclaimed artist Hunt Slonem‘s studio yesterday was that wonderful reminder, even in the unlikely setting of an old industrial building in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. I was running around New York like a semi-crazy person before heading back to California tomorrow, and I needed a little reminding.
Hunt is particularly endearing not just because he is a wonderful, generous soul who is also a HOOT, but also because he is a steward of old houses, both in upstate New York and in his home state of Louisiana.
There was a great piece about him in The New York Times a few years ago, which you can see here. Also The Wall Street Journal some months ago did a piece on the studio, Hunt’s “Oddball Menagerie,” which you can read here. Oddball because of the outlandish assortment of gothic and other furnishings, and his literal menagerie of fabulous exotic birds, often represented in his work.
And I’d be remiss to omit this fab interview and visit with Hunt by Kurt Anderson just a few weeks ago on Studio 360, here.
Last year Hunt was kind enough to donate a painting to be auctioned at Sotheby’s to benefit Africa Foundation, of which I am a trustee. He is very gracious that way, and we at Africa Foundation are extremely grateful, as are the many organizations to have benefited from Hunt’s generosity.
Another reason I went to see Hunt was to visit an old buddy, a sofa, actually. You see Hunt has a huge studio and I have a small apartment. The time had come for my big sectional sofa and me to date other people. It happens. Last spring Hunt happened to visit and he and the sofa were a match. I was thrilled; he was thrilled. And yet I still cared for it; it was designed by my friend John Oetgen after all and had been a faithful companion for nearly 12 years.
And there it was looking very happy, expansive even. I wasn’t sure how to take it. Once covered in a Brunschwig & Fils sort of Moorish tapestry, then Belgian linen, then… woo-hoo! Orange! “It was supposed to be pumpkin,” Hunt said, “but it’s sherbet.” I want it back, I said. Just kidding. We all have to change to stay fresh, relevant, engaged. Even sofas. And Hunt was just using and celebrating his gift!