How Hunt Slonem Celebrates

How Hunt Slonem Celebrates

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 […]

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.

Hunt Slonem with orchids and butterflies.
Hunt Slonem in his studio with a painting of orchids and butterflies, which I asked to take because his painting clothes matched it.

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’.

Hunt Slonem Painting
One of Hunt's exuberant flower paintings.

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 Slonem Studio
Hunt Slonem's studio comprises a vast and fantastical assortment of furniture and objects, and paintings of course. Photo by Adam Golfer for The Wall Street Journal.

Hunt Slonem bunnies
One of Hunt's signature subjects is bunnies. Why bunnies? ''Why did Rousseau live in Paris and paint tigers?'' Hunt answers. He was also born in the sign of the Rabbit and sometimes makes these small paintings as a warm-up to his creative day. Photo by Adam Golfer for The Wall Street Journal.

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.
Hunt Slonem's house in Louisiana
Hunt Slonem's Lakeside, an 1832 plantation house in Louisiana. Photo by Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times
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.

Hunt Slonem Studio
A table with masses of candlesticks surrounded by gothic chairs. Photo by Natasha Quam.
Hunt Slonem birds and butterflies
Birds and butterflies

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.

Hunt Slonem Studio
Every now and then he does leopards. Photo by Natasha Quam.
Hunt Slonem Studio
Hunt is also a bust man. Photo by Natasha Quam.

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.

Hunt Slonem Studio
My ex-sofa, happily ensconced in Hunt Slonem's studio and a part of art history, wow. How this thing ever actually fit into my Manhattan apartment is now a mystery to me.

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!

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