Our new exhibition Down the Rabbit Hole can be dissected into various theologies. First, its a bow to the animal that both artists choose to feature in their paintings. In Whisper, from 2020, Kristy Gordon paints rabbits purring thoughts into the ears of a modern-day woman. Hunt Slonem has essentially become synonymous with his iconic paintings of bunny rabbits. A few simple gestures develop a portrait of these furry creatures. Why Bunnies? Throughout cultural history, rabbits have symbolized new beginnings, good luck, haste, gentleness, fertility, and sensitivity. They inhabit every continent, save Antarctica, so they appear in mythologies and folklore of almost every international culture.
Another way to interpret Down the Rabbit Hole is to think figuratively about the actual phrase. Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland generated this metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully, or troublingly, surreal state or situation. As we look at the latest work of Kristy Gordon, we are certainly transported into another realm. Each scenario is exciting and errs on the edge of a magical reality. However, there are expressions of fear, anguish, and uncertainty. At the time of creating these paintings, well before the pandemic hit, Gordon explains that she was thinking of the bipolarity of destiny where hope and conflict co-exist. She explained that multi figure compositions are technically challenging – using artifice to create theatricality. Weird unexplainable elements play along with normal life in this series of works. To prepare, Gordon spent a long while absorbing famed works from pre-renaissance masters Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hieronymus Bosch, and Jan Van Eyck at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Liminality is defined as a state of transition between one stage and the next, especially between major stages in ones life or during a rite of passage... In a general sense, liminality is an in-between period, typically marked by uncertainty. Gordons canvas displays this in-between-period. In a literal sense, she has the curtain being pulled back and up towards the top right corner. A man, dressed in old-fashioned army-garb, is the one pulling the curtain. Two female figures, both modeled after Gordon herself, tug desperately at the other end of the rope, hoping to keep the curtain from revealing their destinies. More ropes are entangled in the two front figures, a girl in a contemporary camo-jacket has fainted, and is being held up by a friend. Behind them, large billowing flames blaze upward. A man carries another man – in what appears to be an almost casual manner. Could these fires be humanities newest destiny? Or are they our current reality which we are forced to face, in order to finally find solace, which can be found in a distant valley where the smoke has cleared. The most serene part of this overall painting is the figure on her hands and knees, in the dirt of a garden. Above her, vines of flowers and bounties of vegetables grow high, and behind her a dirt road winds up a distant mountain. Perhaps a reminder to humble ourselves from our day-to-day panics and and get closer to nature.
In the case for Hunt Slonem, lots of visitors might be saying “These colorful paintings of birds and rabbits arent very – classical!” A few may even think weve lost our minds – having brought in an artist so different from our Classical-Realist niche. In taking on Hunt Slonem, the Grenning Gallery may have fallen “Down the Rabbit Hole” into more expressionist artworks, and we are delightfully excited to welcome this new genre to our gallery.
Before the bunnies, Hunt Slonem was moved to paint figures of religious sacrality. Healers, Guardians, Saints, Shamans, Siddhas –all figures of a profound and potent faith. Slonem went on to paint many recognizable figures from pop-culture: Alfred Hitchcock, Silvia Miles, Rudolph Valentino, and Mozart to name a few. He has painted a number of iterations of portraits of Abraham Lincoln – whos character has been a longstanding symbol of integrity and unity. However, it was his simplified yet colorful paintings of birds, and then his repetitive depictions of rabbits which skyrocketed Slonem to art-stardom.
This juxtaposition of the pop-iconic paintings of Hunt Slonem and the classically-rendered fantasies of Kristy Gordon – is a declaration of the new and vast possibilities that lie ahead for the Grenning Gallery. As the first exhibition of the new year, we are pleased to clarify our extensiveness, from strictly classical painting – to a wider range of acceptance.