A grandiose sense of childlike wonder lies at the heart of Diehl Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Coefficient Expansion,” which features internationally renowned artist Hunt Slonem and his newest experiments with 3-dimensional mediums.
“The title ‘Coefficient Expansion’ has a twofold message,” gallery owner Mariam Diehl said. “It refers both to the glassblowing term and the way a material changes volume when heated, and also to Hunt Slonem’s foray into glass as a medium.”
“Coefficient Expansion,” which runs until April 4, is among the first exhibitions to display Slonem’s glass wall busts, Diehl said. The busts — a bold mixture of contemporary materials and forms with Old World beauty — feature glass-blown rabbits mounted on vivid velvet backgrounds with Victorian-era frames.
Slonem has been intrigued by glass as a medium for a while, gallery associate Devin Hardy said, attracted to the material’s “translucence” and “vibratory quality that’s just so much lighter and ethereal,” a gallery press release states. The physical act of glassblowing is a particularly “fascinating” experience that lines up well with Slonem’s lighthearted style, Hardy added.
“[Slonem] has talked about how malleable and fluid glass is,” Hardy said. “I think, based on his painting style, which also has that sort of childlike fluidity and freedom, glass and particularly hand-blown glass is just the next step in that fluidity, but in a 3-dimensional form.”
Slonem is best known for his bright, whimsical oil paintings of bunnies, butterflies and tropical birds — some of which also are on display at Diehl — as well as his “eccentric fashion style” and playfully designed restorations of America’s forgotten historic buildings. He has captured subjects like Louisiana landscapes and Abraham Lincoln with his vibrant eye, and is never far from his prime inspiration: He lives with 60 pet birds in his Brooklyn apartment.
Slonem’s dynamic character is fully apparent in his work, Hardy said. The artist’s commitment to a certain kind of playful naivete, as well as his passion for exploration and repetition are translated instantly to any audience member standing in front of his work. One might say the artist takes the phrase “multiplying like bunnies” quite literally.
“Picasso had a famous quote, that what he strove for in his everyday life is to see the world through the eyes of a child,” Hardy said. “And I think that’s rare to find in an artist, because there is so much baggage of culture, sales and the history of the trajectory of art. To be able to free yourself and truly paint from your heart — I feel like Hunt is an absolute master of that.”
While this is the first time Jackson art collectors are able to see Slonem’s new glass work, his work has shown in several winter exhibitions at Diehl Gallery in the past. Audiences who see his work for the first time “are often awestruck at the complexity of the work in spite of the seemingly simple subject matter,” Diehl said.
Slonem’s animal art stands apart from the abundant selection of wildlife art in Jackson, Hardy noted. His patently lively palette and character diverge from more “traditional Western art forms,” adding a “refreshing” sensibility to the repertoire of art styles in town.
“Everyone that comes since I’ve been here is immediately drawn to our bunny wall,” Hardy said. “They gasp, and exclaim, ‘This is so fun!’ People really enjoy that lightheartedness that isn’t quite so serious but still compelling.”
Diehl Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visitors interested in Slonem’s paintings and sculptures are encouraged to make an appointment but are welcome to “pop by and call from outside the front door” as well, Diehl said. Additional work can also be seen at DiehlGallery.com. ￼