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Hunt Slonem (1951–)

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Hunt Slonem was born in Kittery, Maine in 1951. His fascination with exotica imprinted during his childhood in Hawaii and experience as a foreign exchange student in Managua, Nicaragua. Slonem received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University of Louisiana and studied painting at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Since 1977, Slonem soloed in over one hundred fifty exhibitions at prestigious galleries. His work is exhibited globally, including in Madras, Quito, Venice, Gustavia, San Juan, Guatemala City, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Stockholm, Oslo, Cologne, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Over fifty museums internationally include his work in their collections, among them The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York. His work has been shown in thirty-one different museums. Corporate collections include American Telephone and Telegraph, Chase Manhattan Bank, Citibank, Continental Airlines, Goldman Sachs Co., IBM Corporation, Marriot Corporation, Paine Webber, Inc., Port Authority, and Readers Digest Inc. He won the 1991 National Endowment for the Arts Grant in Painting, and McDowell Fellowships in 1986, 1984 and 1983.

Since 1973, Slonem has lived and worked in New York City in his legendary loft with his seventy pet birds. The birds are his models. So enmeshed and unique are his aviary, studio, lifestyle and painting, that Slonem has been featured on television a dozen times and in numerous articles. In his 1993 essay, the late Henry Geldzahler describes, "The visual field of Hunt Slonem's paintings is a continuum accented by ovals of varying shape and colors that it turns out are birds." The birds evolved from Slonem's early paintings of saints as well as inspiration from the pioneers of bird imagery in painting, including Fabritsius, Heade and Audubon. Audubon shot one hundred birds for each painting. Slonem is instead a slave to his birds. He spends the first two hours a day caring for them; the rest of the day painting them.

Slonem's birds symbolize the soul and spiritual liberation. Repeated trips to India have nurtured the artist's spirituality. His work depicts his reverence for exotic life forms. Birds are one of the great treasures of the earth that sixty million years of uninterrupted evolution have created in the rain forest. Many are now extinct because of man's astonishing destruction. Slonem's images are a plea to the viewer to look at these creatures before they disappear from the planet. Poet and critic John Ashbery observes, "From the narrow confines of his grids, half cage, half perch, Slonem summons dazzling explosions of the variable life around us that needs only to be looked at in order to spring into being.”