Home sweet homes
An illustrious artist finds Louisiana a tranquil place to live and work
One might wonder what a world-renowned artist and longtime Manhattan resident is doing in rural Louisiana.
But if you ask Hunt Slonem, the answer is quite simple. His home is here. Or rather, his homes are here. His second homes, anyway.
“People often ask me why I own two,” he says of his plantations, one along the Bayou Teche and the other in Batchelor. “I tell them, ‘Because I can’t afford to have 10.’” And he’s only half kidding.
The 61-year-old calls Louisiana a “great escape” from his large, New York City pad, where he lives with 50-plus birds, most of which are parakeets. Slonem often depicts them and other exotica in his art. He says, “There’s an enormous overlap of my world and my paintings.”
That overlap includes Slonem’s need to preserve the “wonderful heritage and architecture” of Louisiana. He enjoys the hard work that comes with the constant, extensive renovations to his 19th-century homes. “I have a love affair with Louisiana,” Slonem says.
Renee Chatelain, executive director of the Manship Theatre where Slonem’s work has been shown noted the excitement that came with displaying such high-caliber works: works that included Slonem’s interpretations of birds and Louisiana bayous from his 45-year career. Chatelain and others felt his art eloquently captured his passion for the state.
This passion first began in the early 1970s during Slonem’s days as a student at Tulane. The young artist got a taste of Louisiana in those years that stayed with him after he moved to Manhattan, established himself in the art world and began traveling extensively. Today, his works are featured in more than 350 museums and galleries throughout the world. His paintings fetch in the tens of thousands.
And yet, he still returns to the Bayou State, to his antebellum homes that demand a lot of upkeep and attention—located far from cosmopolitan NYC. Slonem isn’t afraid of a bit of drama, a dose of history, an escape from urban reality. He believes he belongs here. He’s proud of Louisiana. And plans to always call it home.
“The plantation homes saved my life,” he says, adding he plans to spend as much time as possible in Louisiana.