Lisa Hunt

The Graphics of Gold

<em>Rounds Negative Canvas I (Black)</em>, 2018, 24K gold leaf, acrylic on canvas, 54.5 X 58 inches.
Rounds Negative Canvas I (Black), 2018, 24K gold leaf, acrylic on canvas, 54.5 X 58 inches.

Brooklyn-based Lisa Hunt worked at several magazines as a graphic designer before turning to art-making full time. Here, she discusses her career path, where she finds design inspiration, and why she doesn’t want viewers to read too much into her work.

“This is a second career for me. I went to Pratt Institute here in Brooklyn. I studied graphic design with the intention of going into magazine design. It was something I had always wanted to do as a kid. I did not officially graduate from Pratt—I was about a semester short of credits, but I ran out of money. I worked at different design studios and a couple of record labels doing CD packaging, and eventually started working in magazine design. I worked my way up and became the creative director at Essence, which was my final position in the industry. I wanted to get back to making art and working with my hands, so I quit in 2009. At that point, I thought that I wanted to design textiles, but ultimately decided to try being an artist with the idea that I would eventually get back to textiles.

When I started out in graphic design, I was cutting and pasting things to achieve the final product. When everything went digital I missed having my hands on the materials. Most of my artwork to date has been on paper. Within the past year, I’ve moved towards screen printing on canvas. I paint the canvas with acrylic, and then I screen-print the adhesive before hand-applying sheets of gold leaf to the canvas. I have philosophical moments when I’m making the art, thinking about the nature of the patterns that I’m playing with. It’s tied to who I am on an emotional level and how I live my life. My work is precise and clean—I’ve had to learn to screen-print in a meticulous way. The gold felt like a natural aesthetic choice. Gold itself has so many meanings. There’s the idea of the gold standard, something being gilded. And the tangible value of it—it’s expensive, but there’s also a warmth to it.

I derive inspiration from taking in everything around me. I’m naturally drawn to patterns, especially those I’ve seen around the world. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have traveled a lot. I went to Cambodia and Bangkok and was drawn to the motifs I encountered there. I also have a great book in my studio called The World of Ornament, which is divided into chapters on different parts of the world. I have immersed myself in it, so when I sat down to make my own work, all of these sources of inspiration come through me. I am also drawn to the Art Deco period. I’ve done some research on the influences of the Art Deco artists. It turns out that they were pulling inspiration from different West African countries. So I’ve also been channeling that period; not in any formal way—just taking some of it in and looking at different textiles and meditating on them. But I don’t want people to go too deep into my work. It’s very abstract. I want them to bring their own experiences to it and come to it by themselves.”

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Noelani Kirschner is a former assistant editor for the Scholar.


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