Hunt Slonem: Eden Never Ends at the Nassau County Museum of Art

by Debbie Wells

On view now through March 3rd at the Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, NY. This exhibition was curated by Franklin Hill Perrell and Debbie Wells. For more information, visit www.nassaumuseum.org

Experience a lavishly colorful installation by the world-renowned artist and designer Hunt Slonem will transform the elegant rooms of the mansion into a dream-like sanctuary for parrots, rabbits and butterflies, his signature motifs. This show within a show, titled Eden Never Ends, includes not just a dazzling array of paintings but an unforgettable installation of fabrics and extravagant furniture designed by Hunt Slonem, created expressly for this show. 

Artist Hunt Slonem’s unique aesthetic comes from a life filled with experiences in travel, nature, history and art. His vibrant perspective is what makes him a beloved artist of our time.

Like Andy Warhol, Slonem’s art is everywhere. His works hang in countless private collections and museums, including the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as products of mass consumption, such as wallpaper, clothes, fashion accessories, carpet and fabrics.

Slonem depicts his favorite subjects, mostly animals, with great verve in his signature Pop art style. He starts every work session by painting a rabbit! He enthusiastically repeats the image in every color in endless variation. He describes his painting method to be more of a spiritual mantra by comparing his color-layering painting technique to weaving a tapestry. The more overwhelming the layers, shapes, sizes and colors, the better it gets.

Above: (L-R) Artist Christine D’Addarrio, Hunt Slonem and Debbie Wells at NCMA reception. Below: Franklin Hill Perrell examining a Hunt Slonem painting at his Brooklyn studio. On Cover: Two adorable sisters admire Slonem’s artwork.

Born 1951 in Kittery, Maine, his childhood was spent all over the country from Hawaii to Connecticut due to the career of his father as a Navy officer. Continuing his passion for faraway destinations, he studied abroad in Nicaragua and Mexico. There, he developed a life-long appreciation for tropical landscapes, birds and butterflies. He studied in the U.S. as well, including painting at Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Maine and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. After graduating from Tulane University of Louisiana, he moved to New York City and has been a fixture of New York art scene ever since. It all started in 1975 when artist Janet Fish offered him her studio for the summer. This soon led to having his work featured at several art galleries and the opportunity to meet icons like Liza Minnelli, Sylvia Miles, Truman Capote, and Andy Warhol (Slonem even served as an usher at Warhol’s funeral).

In the early 1980’s, Slonem began working on his now legendary series of bunny paintings. He fixated on the image of rabbits to commemorate the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac calendar, which is his birth year. His bunnies, birds and other painted creatures, are coveted by his celebrity clientele, including Sharon Stone, Taylor Swift, Hilary and Bill Clinton, Brooke Shields, Whoopi Goldberg, Julianne Moore, Sonja Morgan, Mandy Moore, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, and Kris Jenner.

Enter his art studio housed in a massive 30,000 square foot industrial space in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and prepare to be overwhelmed by its distinct combination of whimsy, quirkiness and colorful charm. In addition to using it as a working studio, he showcases his fanciful furniture and eclectic collectibles in carefully curated vignettes. Even more extraordinary is his collection of live potted plants and animals, especially his aviary housing over fifty parrots on site. Monkeys and turtles and other exotic animals have also resided at the Slonem studio at various times. To experience the sights and sounds of his menagerie of animals, paintings, sculptures and decorative objects in person is one never to be forgotten. 

Slonem is also a passionate restorer of historic homes. He’s purchased and restored nineteenth-century estates and even an armory in Pennsylvania, as well as plantation mansions in Louisiana. Each home has been meticulously restored with expert craftsmanship to honor its architectural glory. To complete his mission, he then personally designed the interior decors to display his antique collections and original art in his one-of-a-kind contemporary meets vintage style with over-the-top flair.

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