Featured Artist At Gallery 621
Hunter joined Gallery 621 in 2017 after showing his work there earlier that year. Benicia’s friendly artist community and a warm welcome from fellow gallery artists made him glad to reconnect with Benicia. “I’d spent time here 10 years earlier, but it has changed substantially,” said Hunter, who currently lives in El Sobrante. He found First Street much livelier and the waterfront even more beautiful than remembered.
Hunter developed his skills as an artist through degrees in ceramics and sculpture. He holds the BFA from the University of Arizona, Tucson and the MA from UC Berkeley. He liked California so much he stayed in the Bay Area permanently after graduating.
After school, Hunter picked up a camera as a means to an income for the next 30 years. His work in photography led to a job at Ramparts, an influential literary and political magazine, doing design and layout, magazine covers, and journalistic assignments. After the magazine ceased publication, Hunter set up a photography studio and darkroom in Oakland where he taught classes for adults for many years. He later obtained a “professional credential” and became a full-time photography teacher at Oakland High School where he taught for 17 years, gradually incorporating ceramics into his teaching. He set up a ceramics studio at home and let photography go. When his work in ceramics became more physically taxing than he desired, he transitioned into painting.
Hunter describes himself as a very visual person. “It’s what I see that gets my brain going. No matter what medium I’ve worked with – ceramics, sculpture, photography, painting – the artistic endeavor is like having a conversation with yourself. You put in the hours to get comfortable with the craft and master the materials, then it’s all about mining the stuff in your brain.”
The paintings in his current show are made by alternating layers of enamel spray paint with layers of wax resist on wood panels. The wax is removed, and more layers of paint are applied. Sometimes Hunter sands the panel to remove paint before adding more. The paintings show his interest in spatial relationships, abstract shapes, gridlines, and bright contrasting colors. “I’ve been working with color for years, using multiple layers of pigment and glaze on my ceramics. What I’m doing with my painting now is very similar.”
Conceptually, each work in the current exhibition represents a page from a painted book. “I tend to work in sequences. Something interests me and I might do 5 to 10 paintings that develop that particular concept. All the works are different but related in some way. They just hang together as though they are pages in an imaginary book.”
Hunter stayed home like everyone else during the pandemic, spending enormous time in his studio and producing the works in the current show. “It was a great time to paint, but I missed the simple pleasure of adult conversation.” When he is not painting, Hunter enjoys hiking, being outdoors, and observing the amazing geology of the California landscape. His work has been shown at the Pence Gallery, the LH Horton Gallery at San Joaquin Delta College, the Richmond Art Center, Arts Benicia, and other Northern California galleries. His show opens on July 1st and closes on August 1st. Gallery 621 is located at 309 First Street in downtown Benicia. For gallery hours, visit gallery621.com.