Michael Hunt, whose new series of mashup images Our Inverted Democracy: The Long Winter will get its first local showing at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM, 29 Tinker Street, Woodstock) at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 4, after uniform successes at Miami’s big art fairs in late December, describes himself as a time traveler. And all because of what he found when forced to move beyond the medium he’d used to make his intrinsically American messages.
Hunt, who’s long been fond of describing himself as having been conceived at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, became known for working with sandblasted redwood. He’d make and paint flags on it, eagles, and other iconic imagery. “My parents, who own a sign shop, had bought a whole redwood tree out West,” he explained. “It’s gone now.”
Searching for new materials, and inspiration, Hunt was looking at photos on top of a tablet in his lap and realized the layering of imagery felt fresh. So he started taking pictures of the photos on top of photos. Eventually he found some computer apps to help him, and then the New York Public Library’s online collection of millions of public domain images, which included multiple files of Depression-era works commissioned by the Farm Security Administration, along with photographic works by the great American artist Ben Shahn.
“I was showing my earlier transparencies at Miami Basel and was down there with my kids and started playing around with photos of the scenery there and 1930s images, including old French theatrical posters,” he said. “What was really interesting was that I found a lot of people doing similar things using light boxes and the like; it was really wild.”
He’s since shifted what he started making by a pool in Miami from 18 by 24 inches to two by three foot images. Plus techniques he says he’s always used that were first learned in his parents’ sign shop, including vinyl prints on metal backings.
Hunt gets back to his earlier idea about time travel; he is proud to be bringing these courageous American faces from troubled times past into new settings, including the trappings of contemporary Miami.
“These men and women, I’m wondering how many of them would have grown accustomed to it,” he added. “These layerings feel so ‘right now.’”
Did he see a new direction coming out of what he’s now started and taken to a first solo show level?
“I have an uncle living north of San Diego who sends me images of sunsets,” he answered. “I’m working on them and looking at houses from back then.”