Bringing a whimsical, freewheeling sense of awe, wonder and detail to his wild array of paintings and sculptures and peaceful, mystical living and working spaces, NYC based artist and lifestyle trendsetter Hunt Slonem is considered one of the great colorists of his time.
As vibrant a dresser (favoring bright jackets and ties) and decorator (known for his keen eye for refurbishing homes and pairing vintage furniture with contemporary art) as he is a painter and sculptor, the Maine born creative force of nature is well known for his neo-expressionist works of butterflies, rabbits and tropical birds, the latter often inspired by the 30 to 100 exotic feathered friends he houses at any given time in an aviary in his 30,000 square foot Manhattan studio. His work has been shown in contemporary art galleries in over 300 museums (including the Guggenheim and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.) and is part of important private collections all over the world, including those of many celebrities.
Just over 40 years since he moved to New York, and 37 years since first solo show at the Harold Reed Gallery, the ever-entrepreneurial Slonem continues in whirlwind mode. He has 36 exhibitions of his works throughout the U.S. and Europe planned for this year alone, a licensing deal for a new line of Lee Jofa wallpaper and rugs and an upcoming collaboration of scarves and totes with New York based Echo design. He is also playing himself in an independent film called “Stealing Chanel.”
2014 has also been an exciting year for Slonem on the publishing front. He is currently releasing, in association with luxury book publisher Assouline, When Art Meets Design, an extraordinary 300 page, (280 illustrations) photography based volume that offers a dynamic view into his fantastically decorated and meticulously restored homes. These include three historic houses that he rescued and refurbished, including his “first child,” the Cordts Mansion in Upstate New York, and his two Southern mansions in Louisiana, Albania and Lakeside. Beyond its majestic beauty, The Lakeside Plantation captured Slonem’s fascination for history. Listed in the National Register of History Places in Louisiana, it was once owned by Marquis de La Fayette whose close relationship with lifelong friends such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, John Adams, and Robert Livingston played a pivotal role in the Louisiana Purchase. In a show of gratitude, the United States gave La Fayette the land which is now known as Lakeside Plantation.
Enhancing them with his transcendent, light infused décor, he pairs vintage furniture with contemporary art, including many of his own works in addition to pieces by Alex Katz and Andy Warhol. A truly magical showcase of Slonem’s ability to create spectacular spaces, the book features vivid and expansive interior photography that reveals how he combines antiques, fabrics and artworks. House Beautiful will be running seven pages of this remarkable window into his artistic soul and unique world, including his legendary Oz-like studio in Hell’s Kitchen. Architectural Digest will also soon feature the fabric, wallpaper and rugs he is licensing to Jofa. When Art Meets Design includes a descriptive essay by Emily Eerdmans, an instructor in design history at the New York School of Interior Design and the interior design department at the Fashion Institute of Technology; Eerdmans is also contributing editor for House Beautiful,, and she has previously written books on Mario Buatta and Madeleine Castaing.
As a founding element of his process, Slonem likes to say, “Repetition is very important.” He starts each day painting, treating each moment as one of profound meditation and channeling of God or a higher consciousness. Included in this ritual are his famous bunny paintings – the result of a daily morning warm-up that was sparked during a late-night revelation at a Chinese restaurant: that he was born in the Year of the Rabbit. His famous Bunny Wall combines his art with his passion for collecting, as the paintings are exhibited in Victorian-era portrait frames picked up from his travels across the country.
In March 2014, Slonem published, just in time for Easter, Bunnies, a luxurious, finely designed and crafted first collection of “bunny art” – an exciting, unexpected, impressionistic mega collection for adults and children alike. A treasury filled with enchanting full-color and black-and-white paintings, Bunnies features a foreward by bestselling author John Berendt (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and an essay by artist and gallerist Bruce Helande. Berendt beautifully captures the magical springing to life of these rabbit figures when he writes: “Every morning, upon rising - even before he's had his first cup of coffee - Hunt Slonem performs his daily warm-ups . He approaches his worktable where a stack of small rectangular panels awaits. Some of the panels are made of wood, some of Masonite. In the course of the next half hour he will have populated all the panels with rabbits. These paintings are what he calls his warm-ups.”
“My work is wonderful to live with, and I love to live with it,” says Slonem. “Unlike a lot of contemporary art which is political or shocking or jarring, mine is non-judgmental, like an eternal witness that watches without judging. I’m also exhilarated by nature, including birds, plants and butterfly forms that most people don’t even know exist. I collected all of those things when I was an exchange student in Nicaragua, and caught my first morpho butterfly, which is an exquisite iridescent blue when I was 16. I think my art comes from being born somehow conscious of other realms, which is what the divine is all about. I grew orchids as a child, and have long recognized that orchids and birds come from those places as a gift to humanity.”
Slonem has long attributed much of his prolific output to his work with channels and psychics. A spiritual sojourner his whole life who is always on a quest for soul freedom and the dispensing fear, his earliest paintings were of Catholic and Hindu saints surrounding animals. He has used his art to raise money for numerous charities (including cancer research) and created wallpaper for the Ronald McDonald House. Slonem combines his passions for the spiritual and historical in his sessions with a medium in which he felt the spirit of Abraham Lincoln – who regularly consulted with mediums himself – tell him to paint doves for a series of works Slonem dubbed “Abraham’s Peace Plan.” Another recurring theme in the artist’s pictorial work is portrait painting, and of the 16th President in particular. Slonem has said that his portraits of Lincoln feel personal, and in surprising ways, he’s close to the long-deceased.
As the son of a Navy officer, Slonem spent his childhood on military bases: growing orchids in Hawaii, collecting stamps in Louisiana, and chasing those butterflies in Nicaragua—the place that inspired him most. The tropical landscape informed not only his process, but also his need to be surrounded by the nature he paints; he often works with a bird or two perched on his shoulder. Hundreds of birds also fill the surface of one of his largest ever projects – a 6’x86’ mural he painted for the iconic Bryant Park Grill Restaurant in NYC. His renowned sculptures include “Tocos,” an 18-foot acrylic and aluminum tower of toucans exhibited at the Polk Museum of Art in 2012. A graduate in Painting and Art History from Tulane University in New Orleans, Slonem has also done large sculpture commissions of rabbits, butterflies and toucans in various spots in Southern Louisiana.
“One of my recent focuses has been doing installations in various places that recreate my studio, including hanging some of my works and replicating my furniture and feather-walls with moulted feathers,” says Slonem. “In many ways, I see my whole life as an installation itself, an ever unfolding play of consciousness that is always fascinating me somehow. I’m always after that wow factor, those magical moments where I create a work and look at it in amazement, as if angels or gnomes had entered my space and created the whole thing. When I was young, I learned that Picasso collected chateaus, and I dreamed of doing something like that my whole life. Having reached that goal with these historic homes, I would like them to become part of my legacy, where people use them as study centers that can educate and inspire new generations of artists.”
UKRAINE BORN, LOS ANGELES BASED VISIONARY
ALEXEY STEELE CHOOSES THE WORLD OF
ART SHOWCASE TO USHER IN
AN EXCITING NEW ERA OF “NOVOREALISM”—
AND UNVEIL HIS LATEST PAINTING EMBODYING
THIS CONCEPT, “THE DAWN OF AQUARIUS”
Renowned For His Large Scale Figurative
Works, Commissioned Portraits and Plein Air Landscapes,
Steele Will Join Longtime Friend And Colleague (And Fellow
World Of Art Participant) Tony Pro In Creating A
Novorealism “Show Within A Show” At The
Celebration of The Visual Arts at
The Wynn Las Vegas December 20-22
Alexey Steele finds it wonderfully ironic that December 21, 2012, the final day of the notorious Mayan Calendar, falls right in the middle of the first annual World of Art Showcase (www.worldofartshowcase.com), a unique celebration of the visual arts at The Wynn Las Vegas December 20-22.
This is not because the Ukraine born, Los Angeles based painter believes it will be the end of the world, or even that other so-called apocalyptic events will occur. Instead, for Steele, a product of the Russian Representational School and noted Soviet Art Scholar, it’s the perfect symbolic moment to launch a new era in contemporary art that he cleverly dubs “Novorealism.”
Truly representing a “new world” with all the inherent boldness, danger and uncertainty, Novorealism (www.novorealism.com) is the first comprehensive description of a major cultural and aesthetic shift after post-modernism. The world renowned painter, long acclaimed for an eclectic career that includes large scale figurative works, commissioned portraits and plein air landscapes, calls Novorealism a movement of Contemporary Humanistic Realism. Rather than advocating any particular style of “look,” the concept is geared upon promoting a system of knowledge and practice within a particular set of “human capabilities” as opposite to those that are technologically driven like “photorealism,” itself a standard part of official “post modernism.”
Steele and his close artistic friends Jeremy Lipking and Tony Pro are leading the way in establishing Novorealism’s theory and practice. In their view, Novorealism advocates freedom of artistic expression and true diversity within an aesthetically pluralist world of contemporary art, affirming the existence and importance of different, even mutually exclusive aesthetic systems. It views art as a force defending and defining humanity, directly challenging the establishment’s rejection of the sublime.
Steele and Pro, also a participant in this year’s World of Art Showcase, are scheduled to introduce their progressive vision and unveil works that embody the movement’s beauty and characteristics at a Novorealism “show within a show at the event; they are combining their exhibition booths for maximum effect.
“We are thrilled that Mr. Steele has decided to use the World of Art Showcase as a platform to unveil this very exciting movement, which is not only a turning point in his own storied career, but a revolutionary concept that will impact the global community of visual artists as well,” says the event’s Executive Director Mario Parga. “He and Tony Pro will be making the first ever visual statement of Novorealism, ushering in what is truly the forward thinking art of the 21st Century. All of this is in line with the well-established approach Mr. Steele takes to his figurative works, which are rooted in the Renaissance and Baroque periods but have a modern feel and intensity, with a distinct disregard of the mainstream in favor of grand scales and grand themes.”
Steele’s life and work has been a popular subject in such publications as “Fine Art Connoisseur,” “American Artist,” “American Arts Quarterly,” “Southwest Art,” “Gramophone,” and he was featured in an in-depth article in the Los Angeles Times. He has participated in numerous exhibitions, including two at the Fleicher Museum of Art in Scottsdale, Arizona; and others at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art; Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University; Pasadena Museum of California Art; The Autry National Center of the American West; Phippen Museum in Prescott, Arizona; University of Arkansas Fine Arts Center in Fayetteville; at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles and recently in Cape Cod Museum of Art.
In 2009, Steele won the prestigious Artemis Award in Athens, Greece “for celebrating the power and beauty of women through his art on a heroic scale in the modern world particularly in his multi-figure compositions “The Circle” and “The Soul of The Hero.” That year, he also received the Gusi Peace Prize in the Phillppines for his work on turning art into a tool of International Conflict Resolution and for his “Fire of Peace” composition.
“All of this is prelude to the unveiling of Novorealism,” Steele says, “which truly establishes us as the ‘New Underground’ of American nonconformism. ‘Novorealism’ is the best way to describe what we do and why we’re doing it. It’s the unique and vibrant beginning of the first true movement of the new century, the next stage of the evolution of art, taking us out of the stagnation of mass consumed postmodernism. Finding the language that suits our emotions of today, we find that there’s liberation in learning to understand the visual world via a highly sensitive human system of perception as opposed to technological perception. We’re driven by a deep belief in the ability of humanity to go as high as we can to face the challenges before us.”
Among Steele’s past work that will be on display at World of Art Showcase are his 2011 work “The Daughter of a Shoeshiner” (which focuses on empathy to a character), his recently released drawing series “Torn Beauty” and his 1996 painting “Battle of the Angels,” about the light and dark that fights in all of us. The event also marks the debut of his dynamic, just completed new oil painting “The Dawn of Aquarius,” an intensely personal work that touches on his being a new father to baby twins (via images of the Madonna holding two babies) and the universal desire to fight off powerful invisible forces. The work features a dreamy angel behind the Madonna figure and a huge Centaur—a mythical half man, half horse.
“This painting signifies a true launch for Novorealism and the Classical Underground,” says Steele, “and I am looking forward to sharing this and other works and joining forces with Tony at the World of Art Showcase. It’s an opportunity for everyone to see some great art and meet wonderful people on both sides of the easel who are dedicated to keeping the visual arts thriving in the modern world. For some, December 21 may be the end of the world, but for us, it’s a day for us to welcome a great new era in mankind’s history.”
WORLD RENOWNED SWISS SURREALIST PAINTER,
SCULPTOR, SET DESIGNER AND ACADEMY AWARD WINNER
H.R. GIGER OFFERS THE LARGEST EXHIBITION OF HIS
WORK IN THE U.S. IN TWENTY YEARS AT THE
WORLD OF ART SHOWCASE
Giger, a fantastic realist who won a Visual Effects Oscar
for his design work on Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” will
showcase many original masterpieces, alien sculptures and
rare collectibles at the celebration of the visual arts,
set for The Wynn Las Vegas December 20-22
The World of Art Showcase (www.worldofartshowcase.com) is proud to feature exhibitions by many of the world’s legendary visual artists – but only one of the high profile participants, Swiss surrealist, painter and sculptor H.R. Giger, boasts among his accolades an Academy Award and work with recording artists like Blondie, The Dead Kennedys and Korn.
Globally renowned as one of the world’s foremost artists of Fantastic Realism, Giger won an Oscar for Best Achievement for Visual Effects for his otherworldly design work on the 1979 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic “Alien.” The visual inspiration for these designs came from Giger’s most famous book, “Necronomicon,” published in 1977.
The artist’s other well known cinematic work includes designs for “Poltergeist II,” “Alien3” and “Species,” as well as the legendary unmade film, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune.” Expanding his pop culture reach into the musical realm, Giger has, among other things, designed a custom bio-mechanical microphone stand for Korn’s lead singer Jonathan Davis.
The World of Art Showcase, a celebration of the visual arts and artists at the Wynn Las Vegas December 20-22, will be the largest exhibition of Giger’s work to be shown in the U.S. in more than 20 years. The multi-faceted artist’s separate exhibition space will include original masterpieces, alien sculptures and rare collectibles – which can be purchased individually or collectively for private investment, galleries or museums.
“Mr. Giger’s works are on display in numerous European art museums, including his own in Switzerland,” says World of Art Showcase Executive Director Mario Parga, “so it is truly an honor for us to allow this rare opportunity for art fans and collectors in the U.S. to enjoy what their counterparts in Europe are able to see all the time. He also brings to our event a personal connection to Salvador Dalí, whom he was introduced to by painter Robert Venosa. I’ve long been intrigued by Mr. Giger’s representation of human bodies and machines in a cold, interconnected relationship that some call ‘biomechanical.’ The blend of that with fetishistic sexual imagery makes him a true stylistic innovator whose art has changed the world.”
Born in 1940 to a chemist’s family in Chur, Switzerland, he moved in 1962 to Zurich, where he studied architecture and industrial design at the School of Applied Arts. By 1964 he was producing his first artworks, mostly ink drawings and oil paintings, resulting in his first solo exhibition in 1966, followed by the publication and world-wide distribution of his first poster edition in 1969. Shortly after, he discovered the airbrush and, along with it, his own unique freehand painting style, leading to the creation of many of his most well known works, the surrealistic biomechanical dreamscapes which formed the cornerstone of his fame. To date, more than 20 books have been published about Giger’s art.
From the start of his career, Giger also worked in sculpture and had a strong desire to extend the core elements of his artistic vision beyond the confines of paper into the 3D reality of his surroundings. In 1988, he had his first opportunity to design a total environment, a Giger Bar in Tokyo, followed four years later by another Giger Bar in Chur, the city of his birth. The HR Giger Museum, a further extension of this dream, opened its doors in June of 1998, in the Château St. Germain, in the historic medieval walled city of Gruyères, Switzerland.
As the permanent home to many of the artist’s most prominent works, the museum houses the largest collection of Giger’s paintings, sculptures, furniture and film designs, dating from the early 1960s to the present day. The top floor of the four-level building complex houses prime examples of Giger’s vast private art collection, which includes works by Dali, Ernst Fuchs, Dado, Bruno Weber, Günther Brus, Claude Sandoz, François Burland, Friedrich Kuhn, Joe Coleman, Sibylle Ruppert and Andre Lassen, as well as works by many other of the artist’s accomplished contemporaries.
Continuing his evolution into the 21st Century, he opened the H.R. Giger Museum Bar in 2003. His designs for the 400-year-old space emphasize its pre-existing Gothic architecture. The giant skeletal arches covering the vaulted ceiling, together with the bar’s fantastic stony furniture, evoke the building’s original medieval character and give the bar a cathedral-like feeling.
Over the past ten years, Giger has been honored with a series of major museum retrospectives, from the 2004 exhibition “Le Monde Selon H.R. Giger” (the largest exhibition of the artist’s work outside of Switzerland) to “KUNST – DESIGN – FILM” (a traveling retrospective of Giger’s film designs) at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt and “Dreams and Visions” at the Kunsthaus Wien, Austria in 2011.