Paintings of Shawn Huckins : Contrasting of Historical Juxtapositions

Shawn Huckins does a very distinct work in art in that he meticulously paints historical American paintings and photos of the 18th-19th Century and transposes them with textings of social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter etc. His series of paintings called “The American __tier” is a collection of humorous juxtapositions, paradoxes and satire. Shawn places his text over the finished canvas to draw our attention to the changes in the form of our communication since the days when families on the frontier wouldn’t hear from other for months without instant messaging “while a text going from Denver to New York takes approximately a few seconds. Those century old methods of communication, intelligently and clearly, exhibit passion, courage, and connection, while today’s digital speak gives only a glimpse into the human psyche.”

Shawn Huckins Paintings (1)Thus says Shawn in his website, “In any event, we live in a very different time than our Explorers did and we would appear to place our priorities in very different places: what entertains our selves versus what serves our society. If Lewis & Clark could comment today, would they click the ‘like’ button, or post ‘wtf?’ and then go check their Miley Cyrus tweet?”, and here’s more from this very talented artist:

Please tell us about yourself:

I was born in New Hampshire in 1984 and currently, I reside and work in Denver, Colorado. I received a BA in Studio from Keene State College and I currently work as a professional artist.

Shawn Huckins Paintings (2)I never knew as a kid that I wanted to be an artist. I was doing what I thought most kids did, which was to draw, color, etc. I really enjoyed doing so and thought it was fun. My first painting I had ever completed was after my grandmother had passed and I was given her oil painting kit. I tried it, didn’t like it so much, and returned to drawing. I did not return to serious hardcore painting until Freshman year of college. That was one milestone being reintroduced to painting by respected professors. My joy of painting grew immensely from that point on. Another milestone was selling my first painting at the Senior Art Exhibition at the college’s gallery. I was pretty stoked and I suppose it drove me to continue painting (at nights and weekends) and to work hard to get where I am today.

Shawn Huckins Paintings (3)What’s there in 18-19th century American art that you find most interesting and important?

It’s important because it keeps of visual record of American history. I’ve been fascinated with history ever since Elementary school, especially with the American Revolution, so this series combines my interest in history along with the history of language.

How do you select an artwork to base your work on and how much time does an average work take?

I base my work on paintings that have a similar sensibility to my own style. For example, John Singleton Copley and George Caleb Bingham. Typically, I troll for texts and tweets online without any idea of which painting I will marry it with. I never use my own texts as I feel it’s too contrived. Once I find a good list of text, I have several images in mind and choose the best text to fit with the image. A lot of times, text gets rejected because they are just too raunchy, obscure, or irrelevant. Paintings times can range from one week to several months. I usually work on numerous paintings at once.

Shawn Huckins Paintings (4)Tell us about your fascination with social media communication texting. Do you believe placing such text on classical works bring out nostalgia and a deep disconnect?

It’s fascinating because language is a changing organism like any living thing. It evolves and adapts to new social standards. One may say that words such as ‘twerk’ or ‘selfie’ are dumbed down words of the English language, but I see it as a changing and evolving language. The contrast is with the intelligent and sophisticated writing of time’s past versus our quick, abbreviated language of today.

Shawn Huckins Paintings (5)Your art is juxtaposition and contrasting of old vs. new, classical vs. trivial. Do you think your art is satirical in nature?

My work is meant to be humorous. There’s really no deep meaning behind it, although it does raise questions of where is our technology driven society headed? Are we being so overwhelmed with technology that we forgot some of the more important things in life such as exploration and discovery? Or a one on one dinner conversation with no phones?

What equipment or art supplies do you mostly use?

I use acrylic paint, specifically Golden’s OPEN acrylics. They act like oils in that they have a wide working time which makes blending much easier than standard acrylics. And second most important tools: masking tape and an Exacto knife.

Shawn Huckins Paintings (6)What are your views your own style and contemporary art?

I feel my work is pretty distinguishable from others. It’s very easy to get lost amongst some amazing art out there. Like any body’s view, I love some art, I like most art, and I don’t care for some. All in all, I can appreciate art in all its forms.

What are your future plans and ambitions. Any projects in mind?

Currently, I’m working on a very large scale painting. I typically work on small to medium size paintings, but in anticipation for my solo show next year, I’m doing a large scale piece. It’s a little nerve racking, but I’m excited to get started… although I do need a bigger studio space.

Shawn Huckins Paintings (7) Shawn Huckins Paintings (9) Shawn Huckins Paintings (10) Shawn Huckins Paintings (11) Shawn Huckins Paintings (12) Shawn Huckins Paintings (13) Shawn Huckins Paintings (14)All images © Shawn Huckins : Website | Instagram | Tumblr


About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.