Guest Blog: Interior designer Ellen Kennon shares her experiences creating a custom color palette for renowned artist Hunt Slonem’s exhibition Antebellum Pop! at the LSU Museum of Art. The exhibition incorporates antique furniture on loan from M.S. Rau Antiques with the Pop art stylings of Slonem, and is on view through August 5, 2016.
The Hunt Slonem: Antebellum Pop! exhibit is getting rave reviews. 225 Magazine’s article “Inside the Stunning Design of LSUMOA’s Hunt Slonem Exhibit” describes it perfectly: “The LSUMOA team brings together striking and creative design and dynamic pieces to create a space that feels separated from the rest of the world”. As an interior designer and color consultant who worked with Curator Dr. Sarah Clunis and the LSU exhibition team, I can tell you trying to recreate Hunt Slonem’s magical living spaces in rooms as vast as those at the LSU Museum was daunting. Although Hunt’s homes have enormous rooms, they’re not nearly the size of the exhibition spaces. We could not have pulled it off without the spectacular chandeliers, mirrors and grandiose antiques on loan from M.S. Rau Antiques to anchor such huge spaces. Turning a 34’ x 26’ area into a dining room, we really needed Rau’s over-sized English Mahogany Pedestal Dining Table and Satinwood and Mahogany Pedestal Sideboard, for instance.
Hunt, who came up with the name “Antebellum Pop”, said the show took years of brainstorming and is the product of a ten-year intent to exhibit in this space. The artist’s surreal expressionism and repetitious imagery is magnified by its juxtaposition with the traditional furniture design of the 19th century Antebellum South, including signature international styles such as Gothic, Rococo and French Revival. Slonem fills and charges his canvases with color and texture, and does the same with his roomscapes.
I came on board after Sarah spent many hours with Hunt visiting his two Louisiana planation homes to get a feel for his unique decorating style. The colors we selected for this exhibit were chosen from a special palette of colors I developed for Hunt to coordinate with his new fabric and wallpaper collection that are featured in each room. Although the colors we used in his plantation homes were of the period, the colors I create for Hunt are much more saturated. If you’re wondering why Hunt Slonem would hire a color consultant when he’s already known as a brilliant colorist who understands the connection between color and mood, it’s because I have a line of full spectrum paints with special formulas that use a minimum of seven pigments to create each color, excluding the black pigment (which turns colors muddy). This is how Impressionist painters mixed colors and, of course, how Hunt mixes the pigments that go into his paintings.
Although Hunt Slonem’s work can be seen in hundreds of museums and galleries internationally (he recently showed at the Moscow Museum of Art), this exhibition is very unique in that it is a retrospective of his work showcasing over 40 years of his paintings. In addition to his wildly popular paintings of bunnies, birds, butterflies and Lincolns, this exhibit also incorporates many portraits, including a 12’ wide portrait of Valentino and Gloria Swanson, as well as tropical vignettes and landscapes.
Sarah said she loves Slonem’s work because it takes her out of her world into an “Alice in Wonderland” fantasy world, which is exactly what we created with this exhibit. “I love what they did with this show,” Slonem says. “It’s what I envisioned.” The exhibit is up through August 5th and at 2:00 pm on Sunday, July 10th I’ll be giving a gallery tour and talk of the exhibit. I hope you’ll join us!