Illinois State University graduate student Gina Hunt used a Friends of the Arts grant to learn acrylic airbrush painting, which she integrated into a new series of works that explores light and the passage of time.
Hunt is a native of South Dakota who previously studied painting at Minnesota State University-Mankato. She is in the second year of Illinois State’s three-year M.F.A. program.
In the Q-and-A below, she talks about her new painting series, Chroma Shadow, and why Friends of the Arts grants are important.
Why did you come to Illinois State University?
I was very impressed by the M.F.A. program, specifically the painters and the level of quality work that I saw when I visited.
Tell me a little about the project for which you got the Friends of the Arts grant and what will be the forum for your work?
A few of us M.F.A. students are in the process of planning open studios this fall for the grad studios. They’ll be shown there. A few of the paintings will also be part of a small group exhibition in Minnesota toward the end of the year. The main premise (of the series) was to make light more physical than it is. So throughout the summer I was spending a lot of time outside and becoming very captivated by sunlight and how color can be created and changed through sunlight or lack of light, too. So I was really drawn to colors that would be formed by the lack of light, by a shadow. Light is also really fleeting and constantly changing and moving. So it becomes a transient, ephemeral moment. So I wanted to somehow capture a small moment, an instance, of light that really captivated me.
Describe the paintings themselves.
The last four paintings I made are all very dark. I used very transparent colors; some of these paintings have up to 15 layers of transparent color. When observing color created by light, there is often a gradual gradient of color; I brought this aspect into these paintings.
With the Friends of the Arts grant I was able to integrate acrylic airbrush painting into the work. And before that I didn’t do airbrush, so I taught myself how to do it. And with those funds I was able to get all those materials to start using it and to teach myself.
Why did you want to do this?
I’ve always been interested in fleeting moments, and I think a lot about the passage of time. With this project, I was able to train my eyes to see shifts of color that are incredibly subtle and initially unnoticeable. So I’m really learning how our eyes work, which is really an interesting thing. But also conceptually, I’ve always been intrigued and I always think about the passage of time and ephemeral moments.
So with this project it initially was an extension of an ongoing project. With those paintings what I was doing was manipulating the canvass into a three-dimensional form by pinning different patterns onto it and then documenting that three-dimensional existence with paint. Kind of like how light can do that, if you think about photography and an enlarger and how light will create an image and then you have your photo. With these the paint is documenting that existence of it being in the third dimension. And then after that I take it apart, flatten it, and it becomes a record of what it was. With (the new paintings) what I wanted to do was take that idea of documenting something that doesn’t exist any longer, and I was wondering if I could create a viewing experience that was parallel to that. So what I did with these was I was trying to use color to create an experience that was actually shifting and changing while you looked at the painting. With these I was able to make the viewing experience more an active part of thinking about that idea of time passage, and things fading, disappearing, or emerging. So then when you are looking at these paintings, color will at times emerge and then dissipate. So it actually kind of shifts perceptually while you view it. And so the experience and the time that the viewer is investing in looking at the painting become really important.
Why do you think these Friends of the Arts grants are important?
As a grad student, I wasn’t able to pull together the funds to completely begin using and learning about a new medium in addition to the materials I was already using. And that was what I able to do (with the grant). I was able to use those funds for the startup costs for integrating a new medium into my artistic practice.