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Features / March 1, 1988

Decoding Tony Hunt

The culture heroes of the First Americans are shape-shifters, transformers, jokers. Raven, Coyote, Trickster, Mink, Howler: approach each of them with irony, for he’ll dance gleefully out of reach the moment you’ve pinned him down.

His voyou grin mocks from the heart of a street gang or through the judas window of a penitentiary cell. You’ll glimpse him in a baseball crowd, a beer parlour, the home of a chief of industry. He’ll dock beside you in a fishboat, set up store in the high street, pass like a mask through seven generations of a chosen family. He’s on the kids’ cartoons (in both roles, naturally—Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote rolled into one), but he’s just as likely to be sprawled on a couch, watching those cartoons in a new town house, vodka and Orange Crush in hand, still dressed in the finery of the tacky-tourist party he hosted the night before. Hanging in his closet are the state robes of a prince of the realm. He’s an ambassador, a boozer, a family man; and his faces stare with arch composure from the images of his kind that spring from the hands of his Elect: the artists of his people.

As Tony Hunt is certainly one of the Elect, and as he is, I believe, a culture hero of the Kwa-Gulth, I approach him with due irony, stealth and indirection. It’s a question of history, artifice and tradition. History’s sole constant is irony. Its only anchor is artifice. And Tony Hunt’s art, always distinctive and sometimes luminous, can only be understood within a tradition.

So begins the cover story from the Spring 1988 issue of Canadian Art. To keep reading, view a PDF of the entire article.