about hunter madsen
Hunter is a photographer, essayist, and sometime cartoonist who hails from a family of writers and artists working in diverse media, in a line that traces back to Samuel F.B. Morse, the 19th-century American painter and inventor. (Morse, as it happens, brought the daguerreotype from Europe, and mentored Mathew Brady).
With our modern world awash in conventional prettiness and image glut, Hunter sees that the pre-eminent challenge with art these days is not how to make it beautiful - which is relatively easy - but how to make it unexpectedly beautiful, and therefore moving - which is anything but. "Unexpected beauty unsettles," as Peter Scheldahl once said, and things that unsettle break though.
To locate unexpected beauty in a picked-over age calls for an omniverous eye and a passion for the hunt across a sprawling terrain of unlikely contexts, unpromising locations, and alternative aesthetics. The artist's quest for original beauty has taken him, in passing, to some disturbing and heartbreaking places. Because Hunter explores any and all means to get there, his output can seem like the work of a dozen personas, though unified by an underlying vision and sensibility.
In Hunter's practice, few images look as they were originally shot because, through edited transformations, they tend to become something more. What emerges is often alien to the source material and bonded in surprising ways to larger conversations about life and death. This is art bent toward connecting unexpected beauty with ideas, traversing a range of themes and concerns in contemporary culture. To attempt this union, Hunter's photo-essays inflect the viewer's interpretation of what they're seeing through accompanying titles and texts, which matter to these pieces on a par with the pictures.
To put together these pairings, the artist marshalls a background of unusual breadth. Following a youth steeped in the arts (he had considered, for a time, making a career as a classical composer), Hunter undertook formal training as a social scientist, earning degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard University. He completed his Ph.D. studies and, for a few years, taught liberal philosophy and world politics at Harvard, before pivoting to pursue a more creative line of work in the advertising industry, first in Manhattan and later in San Francisco.
With the advent of the internet, Hunter rose quickly to become a senior partner at agency giant J. Walter Thompson, was invited to head up JWT’s first worldwide center for excellence in digital media (a position that he designed, and then declined), and was awarded the first-ever international Atticus Prize, from global media leviathan WPP, for his innovative writings on the future of marketing.
Hunter subsequently took on leadership roles at Wired, Yahoo, and other seminal startups in Silicon Valley. Along the way, he published occasional pieces on American life and culture, and penned a monthly column on emerging Web trends for Britain's Management Today. Working on the side, Hunter co-authored the controversial book, After the Ball, and gained notoriety as a pioneering strategist for LGBTQ civil rights in America.
Hunter is based near Vancouver, British Columbia, where he lives with his German-Canadian partner of many years and their rescued Persian greyhound, named Weltschmerz, from Teheran. Hunter splits his time between fine art, civic activism, and submitting cartoons for relentless rejection by The New Yorker.
"There is nothing to express, nothing with which to express,
nothing from which to express, no power to express,
no desire to express, together with the obligation to express."
- Samuel Beckett
H.M. "Tree Flesh, Reorganized - Disappearing Monument to Andy Goldsworthy" (2022)
Unless otherwise indicated, all text and images at www.HunterMadsen.com are copyrighted by Hunter Madsen (2022). All rights reserved.