Hunter Potter | A nostalgic examination of his "coming of age" story in Upstate New York.
Hunter Potter has been on the Munchies art club radar for quite a while now and we are so happy to be able to share with you in our artist feature the contemporary American artist who has worked together with top galleries internationally such as König Galerie Berlin and Gallery Fran Reus in Palma de Mallorca, and now is represented by the prominent L21 gallery who presented his work at this years ARCO Madrid and at the Untitled Art Miami Beach.
Who is Hunter Potter?
My name is Hunter Potter and I am an artist who currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. I paint to pay homage to the characters and lifestyles that I admire.
Though the paintings are undeniably exaggerated, they are a direct result of the small-town, blue-collar,
Americana environment in which I grew up and continue to remain so strongly connected to.
My work is, if nothing else, a nostalgic examination of my own "coming of age" story in Upstate New York.
Munchies art club asks Hunter Potter a couple of questions
Tell us about where you come from and how you landed in New York
I am from Upstate New York, about a half hour outside of Syracuse, and grew up and went to high school in the country.
I loved every minute of it.
When I look back I don’t really remember having any overwhelming urge to “escape” my small town but maybe that’s just me glamorizing the past.
I do know that I didn’t expect to end up in New York until I ended up in New York.
My best friend Jordan and I had a big studio in Syracuse in a halfway renovated factory that we were living in and then had to leave pretty abruptly when the building got a historical society grant to gut and replace all the windows. We had plenty of warning time to plan but naturally we did nothing of the sort and suddenly there were no windows and it was December and freezing.
To be honest I don’t quite remember the actual chain of events but somehow we wound up leaving the factory, quitting our jobs, and road tripping most of the US.
I think the final stop was Brooklyn and we kind of just never left. That was 7 or so years ago.
How was it at school? Were you, your parents, or your teachers aware that you had talent?
School was great growing up and I always loved art but nothing beyond the surface level stuff.
Just regular art class once a day. When I eventually went to college in Vermont I was actually enrolled in the political science program for God only knows what reason until I took a year off to get my act together and straighten up a bit.
When I went back for the final couple semesters I switched to studio art in an attempt to reset and restart.
I was not taking it seriously until a teacher pulled me aside and gave me some books on certain artists that she thought I would like (Barry McGee and Eddie Martinez).
That was probably the moment that it all clicked as to how cool this stuff can really be. I devoured those books.
You grew up in the Syracuse area. How was that? What made you decide to go to New York? How often do you go home? Do you plan to move back?
I love Syracuse. I loved the area back then and I still love it now. I love Upstate New York as a whole.
Admittedly, I’m a very nostalgic person and the past always seems better than the present, but even with that grain of salt in mind I think I really did love growing up in a small town.
Every single day after high school our entire group of friends would congregate at the town park or in the parking lot of the town gas station until we all put in eye drops and wandered our way home or to work at the various pizza shops and restaurants.
That was literally our entire life; hanging out in a damn parking lot! Not a care in the world! What more could you want?
I don’t make it home as often as I’d like to, maybe a couple days every few months, but it’s always a treat.
Some of my best friends in the world are still scattered around the area and we still meet up at the same old bars to tell the same old stories and share the same old laughter a few times a year.
I’m also extremely close with my family who are all still upstate and nowadays I have nieces and nephews up there that I adore. Eventually I’ll go home for good but not quite yet!
I really enjoyed your interview with the Elephant magazine in early 2020. There you describe the story behind each painting. Follow the white rabbit is best known as following an unlikely clue and finding oneself in the middle of an extraordinary situation. In the Matrix movie, it’s used as a metaphor for following one’s curiosity to an impossible land. Does this have to do with you leaving home?
The white rabbit metaphor, for me, is much closer to the Alice in Wonderland-ish Jefferson Airplane-ish side of things and is more so a symbol for drug use, addiction, and the general lifestyle that comes along with it.
Chasing the next high, chasing the next thrill, chasing the next whatever you want to call it.
Chasing rabbits! I’ve struggled with these things myself in the past, as have so many of my friends, and I think those of us who are still around to talk about it are pretty damn fortunate.
Lots of lovely people were not so lucky.
What about this painting “My Tree and Me Welcome Thee”, tell us a little bit about it.
This painting, “My Tree and Me Welcome Thee”, is a reference to an abandoned apple orchard down the street from my mom’s house that my good friend Sean and I would go to all the time as highschoolers.
It was kind of the halfway point between our houses way out in the country and I think someone in Sean’s family might have technically owned the property so we knew that, if we were caught there, we could probably talk our way out of it.
Sean would pick me up and we’d drive up this old bumpy driveway and park in the orchard and hang out and listen to music and get high.
I think our teenage brains thought that place was some kind of genius life-hack.
It was 2 minutes from home and yet no one but us even knew it existed.
It was practically right under our parents’ noses! Good times great oldies.
When you first came to New York, your first job was painting large-scale paintings for a billboard company. Explain to us how that worked? Did you learn the technique there, or was it more learning by doing? Is that why you paint big?
Yes indeed! I only hung around for a year, the length of the apprenticeship, but it was a remarkably informative year.
I intended to stay there for a long time, like actual career style, but by the end of that first year the “studio bug” had really gotten under my skin and I was dying to pursue my own practice.
We worked 70-80 hours a week and learned the traditional methods of billboarding and sign painting from the ground up.
Prepping, pouncing, rigging, painting, color theory, everything. It was an absolutely amazing experience.
Those folks are some of the most talented painters in New York, no doubt about it. The scale of that work undeniably rubbed off on me!
The figures in your paintings depict memories of your life and the people who surrounded you. And yet you have also painted people who are criminals, fighters and runaways. Where do they come from?
I have always been the type of person that roots for the bad guy. In a game of cops and robbers, I always wanted to be the robber. Historically speaking, I am fascinated by the bandits, criminals, and underdogs. I see a lot of those traits, though probably not to the same extent, in many of my close friends who have walked the path less traveled.
What is your working process? Is your routine planned or spontaneous? Do you sketch a painting before you start, or do you stand before the empty canvas and envision the artwork?
A little bit of both really! For years and years there was no sketching involved. I did not have the patience for revisions and erasing, especially just to perfect a sketch that wouldn’t even be the final product. Everything changed, however, when I got an iPad and an apple pencil. That digital “undo” button is invaluable!
We love your hammer sculptures. Is working with wood something you associate with your childhood?
To a certain extent, yes. My grandpa was an incredible decoy duck carver so I think the concept of carving was always floating around subconsciously. I had never tried it myself until those hammers, though!
What medium would you like to further explore that you haven't touched on yet?
Metal junk welding. Scrapyard style sculptures.
Do you have Spotify? If yes, what are the top 5 songs you listen to when in the studio working?
Top 5 songs is too tricky to narrow down with confidence but I think I can safely give you the top 5 overall artists. In no particular order: Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, The Clash, Johnny Cash, and perhaps Bo Diddley. I like story tellers.
When the pandemic began and the first lock down took place, what was going through your mind, did you stay in New York?
I think on one hand I was pretty overwhelmed, but on the other hand I knew that the only way through is through. Does that make sense? We had to figure it out as we went and try to find our way to some reliable information and solutions. There was certainly a stage where it was pretty daunting. I did stay in New York but not necessarily by making a conscious choice to stay. It more or less just happened as the days turned into weeks and months!
Did the pandemic leave a mark on your work?
Hmmm. Nothing that I can concretely put a finger on. I think it’s too early to tell.
You took part in this year's ARCO art fair in Madrid. I love the fair, and Madrid is such an awesome City. Were you able to attend?
Yes I did! That was my first fair with L21 Gallery who now represents me. Unfortunately, I did not attend in person due to everything going on with COVID at the time. Maybe next year!
You were awarded 2 residencies in London PLOP residency in 2019 and the Fores Project in 2020. What did you take away from this experience?
I left London after those two residencies with a lot of rock solid friendships and an unwavering soft spot for the city as a whole.
The art scene in London is incredible. So many good people!
You just completed a residency in Mallorca for the L21 Gallery in preparation for the Untitled Art Miami Beach. Very impressive and congratulations! What was it like working in a completely different environment? Were you there alone? Was it your first time in Mallorca? Did you overeat on Paella?
Thank you so much! Mallorca was incredible. It was my first time there and my first time in Spain in general. I cant thank L21 enough for the entire experience. Despite it being off season for the touristy side of things I still managed to see quite a bit of the island.
The food was incredible and the drinks were strong!
Next up is a solo show with Primary Projects in Miami, Florida, this coming spring!
A big thank you to the wonderful artist Hunter from my team and I, for sharing his work and his story with us. We love his work and are so happy to have had this opportunity to feature him on our platform.
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