Hunter Zelner, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of August 2017, will be exploring the notion of place and memory through small landscape paintings while also continuing a series of figure-based works. We asked Hunter a few questions about her artwork and studio practice:
Q: Tell us about your background.
I am Arizona born and raised and have spent my life there save for a brief stint in Oregon. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t tinkering, making, and more specifically painting. I was fortunate to have an arts high school in the area so I went there. Once I hit college I scrambled through just about every major known to man and in the end received my degree in Art History at ASU. I joke but in all seriousness I was the queen of overrides and managed to take mostly studio classes and still ended up with an Art History degree.
Q: How would you describe your work?
Depicting the dichotomy of visceral meat, a still unmoving form surrounding humanity within has been the primary interest of my work.
Early on in my artistic career a teacher asked the students “Have you ever seen a dead body?” That question stuck with me. She went on to explain that as a figurative painter the trick is to put a person behind the eyes. I want to paint a shell with a person behind the eyes. For this reason I primarily paint people I know. I have worked in metal sculpture, oil painting, acrylic painting, and most recently taxidermy. I always go back to oil paint.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
I am a very structured painter…sometimes to my chagrin. I typically come up with a concept, research until I can’t see straight, put the basics together in Photoshop to work out the kinks, grid my surface, underpaint, and then finally get to actually laying on the final image.
Q: What are your goals for the residency?
Like most people coming to the residency I want time and space to work. Life is wonderful but also full of so many distractions. I am looking forward to building better and more consistent work habits.
Currently I am working on a departure from my otherwise figurative work. It’s a series about place and memory but in short paintings of parking lots, alley, stairs, empty pool, etc. at night. I am curious about taking time to document otherwise transitionary places that I might forget. Beyond that, I am planning two larger figurative pieces, and some portraits for the time I am at the residency.
Q: Do you collect anything?
Yes, I have always been a collector. I like a bit of clutter when I paint and in my life as a whole. I collect a lot of random things but some of my larger collections include mounted insects, antique and vintage ephemera, and wall art. At this point I am actually running out of wall space at home.
Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
Lean into your mistakes. As a representational artist I have spent a lot of time fighting the standard of being a human photocopier. There are people with the innate ability to duplicate exactly what they see or those who have spent years learning old masters’ methods. Some of my favorite artists work that way, nothing against it but you are the only one who can “make” exactly like you and the mistakes you make are yours. Fight the urge to start over or cover them and try making them part of your work.
Q: What’s next for you?
After the residency I will be applying for a MFA in Painting. I am glad I took time between Undergraduate and Graduate School but am ready to be immersed again… hense my applying to the residency.
Hunter is teaching a workshop on painting hands (something many painters struggle with!) on Saturday, August 19 from 12 to 3 p.m. at Main Street Arts.