When Barb Hunt was a young girl, she had no idea that
the world around her would change her forever. Today, she is a distinguished artist with works that encompass
human emotion. Newfoundland and Labrador's extraordinary cultural centre, The Rooms, is hosting her
exhibition of installations inspired by conflict that has shaken the world to its very core.
It was the 1960s. Hunt describes the scene as if it was yesterday: Her sweetheart and first love, Ricky, was going off to fight in the Vietnam War. She wanted to protect him and the only way she knew how was through her art. She sewed pink material around the pattern of a camouflage uniform, a metaphor for keeping him safe.
Her material was army fatigues, preferably those worn by soldiers and left behind to wear away. “The material chose me. I feel compelled to do this — it’s like a magnet,” says Hunt. “It gives you a connection to the soldiers.”
One of Hunt’s most acclaimed installations was motivated by her travels to Paris. She attended a protest against landmines called “The Pyramid of Shoes,” where visitors had to leave behind one shoe in order to pay respects to those who have lost their limbs and lives. The implications of war compelled her to create.
The result was her installation called antipersonnel. It consists of replicas of landmine bombs, sewn out of pink wool. Hunt uses these associations to oppose the abuse of power and the use of violence, transforming a destructive object into one that is not harmful. Her piece touches on the fragility of the human body; therefore, knitting serves as a metaphor for the healing and protection of the soldiers.
“I have enormous admiration for these people who go out where there are these landmines… It motivates me to do the work,” she says.
Hunt believes that it was her parents who gave her the drive to create pieces that could provoke change.
“I think it got imbedded in me to think about the world as a global place. My dad talked a lot about global issues. I have taken on his work but only in a different way… I think about these things and you wonder where did this come from. I think we do art about things we can’t express.”
Diverse in her creations, Hunt also uses nature to reflect her ideas. In a piece being created for her current show, she reflects on nature as organic and natural, like the fabric used in the clothing for the soldiers. She is using stones to reflect targets in war and flower petals on the wall to reflect the lives of the soldiers. Each one represents a lost soldier. It will be in the shape of a constellation, showing that each life lost was meaningful and will never be forgotten.
After many years of creating masterpieces, Hunt has come up with innovative installations that will blow away art lovers and fellow artists alike. The Provincial Art Gallery at The Rooms provides the space and the world-class facility to display her work.
Hunt says, “The timing is perfect for me. As an artist, I’m ready.”•
The exhibition is showing at The Rooms in St. John’s from Dec. 10 to Feb. 20.