WHEN ART MEETS DESIGN – When Art Meets Design offers an exciting view into artist Hunt Slonem ’s fantastically decorated and meticulously restored homes. Slonem rescues and refurbishes historic houses—such as Cordts Mansion in upstate New York, and his two Southern mansions in Louisiana, named Albania and Lakeside—enhancing them with his extraordinary decorating style.
“My work is really about the Garden of Eden. I noticed as a child growing up in Hawaii that nature is a gift. “ — Hunt Slonem
Pairing vintage furniture with contemporary art, including many of his own works, and also pieces by Alex Katz and Andy Warhol, Slonem creates spectacular spaces. Vivid and expansive interior photography reveals how the artist combines antiques, fabrics, and artworks, offering an exciting view into his unique world, and his extraordinary studio in Manhattan.
“Repetition is very important,” says the artist, who starts each day painting, treating the creative process as “a kind of meditation,” he says. 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.
As the son of a Navy officer, he spent his childhood on military bases: growing orchids in Hawaii, collecting stamps in Louisiana, and chasing 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 (his 30,000-square-foot Manhattan studio is home to over 60 tropical birds).
His signature style of cross-hatching surfaces with thousands of textured lines suggests the cages through which he views his birds. “I was trying to be a realist,” says Slonem. “I was looking at everything through a grid, and I wanted to paint what I was seeing.” The materials used by sculptor Joseph Cornell also proved important: “His use of chicken wire and hardware cloth with his bird boxes created this vibrant texture,” he adds. It’s an influence Slonem realized much later in his career.
With 36 exhibitions of his works planned for this year alone, a BOOK of his famously restored homes (When Art Meets Design from Assouline) out in September, a line of Lee Jofa rugs to launch this fall, and an upcoming collaboration of scarves and totes with New York-based Echo Design, Slonem manages to dabble in myriad mediums without ever stepping out of his peaceful, mystical world.
Hunt Slonem’s paintings are on exhibit through July 28 at the Gallery Valentine booth at Art Southampton. Born in Kittery, Maine, in 1951, Hunt Slonem is an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker, well known for his works of butterflies, rabbits, and tropical birds, and he has an aviary of over one hundred birds of various species.
Slonem’s work has appeared in galleries all over the world, and many are featured in museum collections, including the Guggenheim in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Slonem’s studio in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City has been featured in Interview, and his homes in Louisiana have been featured in The New York Times.
Emily Eerdmans is 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.