Artist Gina Hunt sat down to talk with Esthetic Lens about what she has been up to. Though this past year provided many difficulties, Hunt shares some moments of optimistic hope, as well as the positive outcomes that have arrived amid all the uncertainty.
1.How are you holding up?
I am doing better than I have at any other point over this past year. Change is happening quickly alongside the beginning of spring. Previous experiences of isolation have helped me a bit in dealing with the sudden losses over the past year. After I finished my MFA in 2015, I relocated to Doha, Qatar for a post-graduate fellowship. I didn’t know anyone and had never been to the Middle East, so I learned a lot about adaptability and how to rely on myself. After living in Qatar for a year and traveling through the region, I came back to the US and did a circuit of residencies for about a year. I even lived in the Badlands National Park, making sculptures and doing research. I only saw a handful of people, mainly a paleontologist and a few park rangers. These experiences became even more valuable to me last spring when so many of us had to drastically and urgently adapt.
2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?
The new cadence of my life, following the major transitions over the past year, allowed me to slow down for the first time. It feels like I have more space, or maybe it is a different space, because deadlines and timelines have gotten so strange. Time is really slow or way too fast; maybe that was always the case, but I am more sensitive to it now.
I teach drawing and painting at a university in Chicago, and our department is still remote. I moved into a new studio last fall and have been preparing coursework and teaching from my studio. Teaching remotely has brought my role as an educator even closer to my art practice, allowing me new opportunities to share my work with my students. I have always recognized that my role as an educator relies on my active engagement with my practice. As a student, I was most inspired by my professors who invited students into their understanding of the world through their artistic work and I hope to offer the same to my students.
Over the past year, I have needed to re-evaluate my priorities, goals, and overall role as an educator. It encompasses so much more than just academics. Being an educator also offers opportunity to do care work. It’s advocacy. I have been really inspired by my students’ commitment to keep moving forward.
3. What are some of the unexpected creative things or projects that have developed for you while navigating the current state of the world?
Last spring, I wasn’t able to work in my studio, so I started making drawings at home. I would start and finish them in one session. Typically, drawing functions as a way for me to plan a painting or an installation, so making a drawing for the sake of a drawing felt really good. One of the first drawings was up at Western Pole during April of 2020. XOXO was a warm gesture to everyone I was unable to see.
I have loved being able to see virtual artist talks; I get to listen to more of my art crushes from around the world, compared to needing to physically be in the same space. I recently listened to a talk by Caroline Kent, and it felt so good and validating to hear Caroline discuss that being an artist is “a life of question marks” and that it gives back through a life of questioning. I love that.
I have done several commissions over the past year and I have been really surprised by the support that has blossomed up in a myriad of ways over the past year. This has been a really productive way to keep the paintings and related research moving along, despite many exhibition opportunities being postponed, canceled, etc.
I was also really happy to be a part of some creative approaches to group shows recently. Zachary Buchner curated the exhibition Gather* at Practise, which was a lovely way of bringing together artists who have previously shown at the gallery with new friends alongside.
My work was also a part of Exhibitionisms, curated by Nicole Mauser, Sheila Majumdar, and Tobey Albright at both Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Time and Space Gallery. Although they began planning the concept for the exhibition as a “house party of objects” before the pandemic hit the US, the idea and resulting show landed in a really poetic way. I included a painting alongside a knitted doily made by my grandfather’s sister. The pairing of the two was incredibly meaningful to me.
4. Who do you wish were still with us to provide pointed commentary on what we are collectively experiencing and why?
I’ll say David Wojnarowicz, as he has been on my mind since I recently watched a new documentary (Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker) on his life and work. I admire the way David was able to speak and write in such a direct, piercing, forceful and clear way. He was able to digest his current reality and respond immediately. The documentary uses David’s voice recordings to narrate the film, and now when I read text from his art and interviews it is always heard in his voice (which I am grateful for).
I was reading an interview recently in which David said, “My paintings are my own written versions of history, which I don’t look at as being linear. I don’t obey the time elements of history or space and distance or whatever; I fuse them all together. For me, it gives me strength to make things, it gives me strength to offer proof of my existence in this form. I think anybody who is impoverished in any way, either psychically or physically, wants to build rather than destroy.”
5. What artists, performers, writers, have you come across recently that have created poignant work about where we are at right now?
Last summer I read Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, a collection of short stories of speculative fiction. The parallels that I found in many of those stories were incredible to read as the pandemic continued to accelerate and protests were happening daily. This book was helpful in reminding myself that imagination and creativity are serious forces for change.
I’ve also read Legacy Russel’s Glitch Feminism, which blew my mind right out of my head in a way which felt like everything made sense. This work theorizes the ‘glitch’ through various modes of storytelling. Subverting the idea that ‘glitch’ is ‘error’ and naming it as a space of opportunity is something I have been doing in my work over the past several years. This book was also so relevant to read this past year because Legacy is writing about identity and its construction through the lens (and re-thinking) of cyberfeminism, dissolving the idea that our identity is structured into separate digital and physical worlds.
I have also been thinking about and re-discovering an exhibition of Tetsumi Kudo’s work (Garden of Metamorphosis) I saw over ten years ago at the Walker Art Center. That exhibition introduced me to Kudo’s work, and I was head-over-heels. It has become present in my mind once again. Kudo started making work in post-war Japan and then Paris, and his work often shows us fragmented body parts, assemblage, performance and fluorescent colors to ask questions about life, death, and progress, while speculating on what it is to be human. Doryun Chong wrote in the exhibition catalogue: “The work of Tetsumi Kudo expresses the artist’s driving and deep concern with the arrogantly anthropocentric belief in the human power of self-transformation and betterment, as well as with the revenges that such a belief has wreaked on humanity. Kudo’s ‘bodies changed into new forms’ constitute both a dark reminder of modernity’s self-destructiveness and an antihumanist proposition through which the artist sought a paradoxical escape route from the endgame of postwar humanism.”
It certainly feels relevant to reflect on Kudo’s work right now. It’s so complex.
6. What are you looking forward to?
I am really looking forward to seeing my grandmother. She is one of the people I most admire in life. She is the person I tell my secrets to, and she taught me how to make quilts.
I miss the interactions that compiled, and really created, my life on a daily basis, the seemingly small and happenstance moments and conversations and interactions. These moments are what life is made of, and I can think of so many moments that happened by circumstance and chance which ended up directing major life changes. I really miss that.
I am also looking forward to change, as we begin to and continue to share how we have spent our time over the past year, and what happens when so many begin to emerge from their cocoons with new knowledge and insight.
Gina Hunt explores physical, spatial relationships largely within the bounds of painting in order to ask questions about the complexities and subjectivity of vision and color. Working extensively with canvas, dye, paint, and wood, her process-based works are sites of perceptual phenomena while remaining rooted in a material-based physicality. The work is produced using manual, repetitive processes developed by the artist which present layers of heightened optical nuances through their construction and craft. Material choices are rooted in the traditions of painting, with an understanding that canvas is a malleable textile and a wooden stretcher can absorb color. The canvas and its wooden support become image, object, and subject.
Solo exhibitions of Hunt’s work have been presented at 65GRAND, The Franklin, University Galleries at Illinois State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar.
Hunt’s work has been included in notable group exhibitions at Chicago Artists Coalition, Heaven Gallery, Drew University, Baby Blue Gallery, Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage, Practise, DEMO Project, E. Tay Gallery, Elmhurst Art Museum, Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, Front Room Gallery, and The Soap Factory.
She has been awarded artist residencies at Chicago Artists Coalition, Hinge Arts, and Badlands National Park, as well as a Fellowship with Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar.
Hunt currently lives and works in Chicago, Illinois, where she teaches at Loyola University Chicago. Her work is represented by 65GRAND.