I sat down with alum Hunter Banks, who graduated from the Fine Arts department in 2014, to talk about art, music, life, and CNU.
So Hunter, what is the biggest thing you took away from your time at CNU?
“Like, how small it is… I established a really good work ethic while I was here and because of the way the professors influenced me, the way I could sit down and talk with them about stuff, they made me more aware of the need to work and how it can benefit you in ways other than getting a good job. Mentally, in a way, it can become relaxing as a refuge. Even in writing papers.”
What do you miss most?
“I miss bike riding around the James River and after parties.”
What advice would you give to current CNU students?
“Don’t get so wrapped up in CNU, don’t forget about the rest of the community here. Check more books out from the library that aren’t for classes because our library is awesome and I really miss it. Take one night off from getting drunk and read a lot of books.”
You had a show in the Falk Gallery recently. Tell me about that.
“Alyssa Pickens and I both got second place in the senior thesis show, and since there were two of us, we got a group show. We got the gallery space and had to be counted on to have stuff done for, like, nine months. It’s been kind of stressful because there were no guidelines – I just had to fill the space. It was totally an evolution. I started wanting to do en plein air paintings (painting outdoors “in plain air”), but it got cold outside so I got on some concept about compulsions and obsessions, moved to WWE wrestlers and the media, and finally arrived at what the show became: still life/abstract paintings of firewood.”
Who is one of your favorite artists and why?
“I think of myself as a painter right now, so one of my favorite painters right now is Marsden Hartley. It’s really interesting how my taste in art has evolved. I didn’t really do much art in high school so when I came here I took Professor Harris’ class on realism paintings, and became interested in Lucian Freud’s paintings from observation that they were very textured and beautiful – the color, they’re so saturated with paint that it almost feels like they’re rotting. It’s a powerful effect; it rides the line of beauty in death.
I was very into realism at first, but I’d always been drawn to abstract art. It always seemed very powerful in a way that a representational image can’t be. To be constantly drawing from a moment that already happened in the artist’s mind is theirs in realism; causing abstract art is an even playing ground for the artist and the viewer. Frank Auerbach – I just love his paintings… Cezanne is also a favorite. I like… sh*t, what’s her name? Yayoi Kusama, she’s the polka dot lady. I like too many artists – I look at too much art.”
What was one of your favorite classes at CNU?
“The one that made me want to be an art major is Professor Harris’ drawing class – she played good music and I got to draw in class; that’s pretty much it. I listen to a lot of music while I paint. Half the time I listen to it, half the time I don’t. It depends on the kind of music I am into.”
What bands do you listen to?
“A lot of older stuff… I love Velvet Underground, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen. I listen to a lot of St. Vincent. She’s my Hollywood crush… or if I did have one it would be her.”
What was your favorite concert?
“My favorite band growing up was The Strokes and I saw them in 2011 at Sweet Life. Everybody there knew every word, every song. My good friend in high school and I had screen printed shirts with the lead singer’s face on it, and I screen printed a pair of boxers with his face on it. She took her shirt off and threw it on stage and he held it up.”
That’s fantastic, I love The Strokes! So what are you doing now that you’re out of college?
“For the first eight months I was working at this small museum – the Deltaville Maritime Museum. After my first year of college it burned down and they rebuilt, and then it reopened as soon as I graduated. I didn’t really enjoy it to be honest.”
Can I include that?
“Yeah, you can say it sucked. But then I got a long-term job substituting at a boarding school, started teaching art there to high schoolers for two months. There were a lot of international students – I had a Turkish student, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, as well as local kids. Right now I don’t know what I’m doing.”
One last question: what is your favorite food?
“I like all the Asian food I have ever eaten. Okay, let me get more specific. I will say… pad thai. I like pad thai a lot.”