In the ’60s and ’70s, Reno artist Larry Hunt, like many young men, was a devotee to his craft. But as so often happens to our most romantic notions, the real world showed its ugly face.
“When I was young in the ’60s and ’70s all I wanted to do was be artist,” says Hunt. “Then I had a kid and didn’t do art for many years. I was trying to raise a family.”
He moved to Reno in the early 70s to make a living, and after abandoning his pursuit of art, he set up a successful landscaping business in Carson City, and later moved into the insurance business. In the years that followed he tried to reignite his interest in painting. In the mid ’80s he painted a series, but into the garage they went because he didn’t feel they were strong.
It was only about three years ago that he had an epiphany.
“I woke up at two o’ clock in the morning and all of a sudden I thought, ‘chrome and auto-paint,’” he says, laughing. “All of a sudden three years ago I sell my insurance business, and all I start doing is art.”
For many years, Hunt has had an interest in motorcycles, and his use of steel and auto-paint certainly point toward that interest. But, the inspiration for his art doesn’t necessarily come from the motorcycles themselves, but the way the landscape unravel as he rides the width and breadth of Nevada.
“Most of the abstract stuff, as well as the images that you see, are all pretty much related to riding motorcycles,” he says. “I ride motorcycles a lot, and when you ride a motorcycle, you catch your landscape in stills. And all these images are basically images that I collect in my mind as I ride through the mountains or desert.”
His earlier paintings, from the ’80s, reflect the same kind of attention to landscape and abstraction. Some of the images are double images. At a glance, they appear to be simply abstract landscapes delineated by what is most certainly a Nevada skyline, but upon further inspection a woman’s body, or part of her body, opens up before the viewer’s eyes.
When I point out what appears to be a sexual nature in his work, he responds that that’s often an observation of his work that is close but not quite right.
“Well, it’s not so much sexuality as sensuality,” he says “That sensuality is nothing more than the tactility, if you will, of looking at landscapes and wanting to touch them. So, you have a tendency to want to touch my work.”
In a sense, what he wants from his observer is to hearken back to those days as a child, looking through the windshield of a car and wanting to reach out and collect that passing myopic world.
“I have always thought of Nevada of being very voluptuous and mountainous but smooth,” he says.
In a way it’s fitting that he has included this series of painting from the ’80s in his newest exhibition, which opens at the Reno Art Works gallery on August 23, because thematically the paintings have been part of the process of the development of his current style. Not only is he using mixed media, but his choice of materials and subject matter also seem to be a dichotomy. There seems to be this play between the natural and the manmade—between man and nature.
“A lot of time steel just tells you what it wants to do,” he says. “It’s just not real easy to work with.”
Which is the case with anything of lasting value be it relationships, art or work. It’s less about what you put into it, but what it brings out of you.