On June 16, 2016

Governor’s wife satirizes press and power in capitol art exhibit

By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger.org
The governor’s ceremonial office got a new set of occupants this week. An installation of papier-mâché figures, created by Katie Hunt, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s wife, will be on display in the executive office in the State House until June 20. The office is often a setting for bill signings and news conferences.
Hunt created the pieces in the exhibit, titled “Anthropomorphizing Animals: A Satirical Critique of People in Power,” as part of her studies at Mount Holyoke College, according to State House Curator David Schutz.
One work, “Judgment Day,” portrays a cow in pink lipstick and heels standing before a crowd of three sharp-toothed bovine reporters. Positioned just feet from where journalists frequently congregate for briefings with the governor, each figure sports a press badge, from “Bovine Days,” “Cowpieslinger.org” and “the Dairy Free Press.”
Schutz said Hunt indicated to him that the fuchsia-shod cow represents herself. The piece could be a revealing look at how Hunt perceives herself in the eye of the media, he said.
The other work, titled “P-cock went hunting (peacock and buck),” depicts the bird with its train in full display, wielding a rifle over the body of a disemboweled buck. Schutz said Hunt told him the peacock represents her husband, who is a well-known deer hunter.
In a description of the exhibit, Hunt wrote that she drew on memories of personal experiences that she found “curious or bizarre,” exaggerating absurdity by substituting animals for humans.
She cited several artistic influences, including the Spanish Romantic painter Francisco de Goya and Vermont’s politically charged Bread and Puppet Theater.
“My work is meant to serve as a satirical look at everything in current life, including myself, my husband, the press, and others,” Hunt said in a statement Tuesday, June 7.
Hunt created the works this spring for her senior thesis in studio art. After seeing the sculptures displayed at Mount Holyoke, Shumlin asked if she would be comfortable showing them in his office, according to Schutz, who worked with Hunt to set up the exhibit.
Schutz described the exhibit Tuesday as a “pretty personal statement.” Though the contemporary 3-D installation is possibly a first for the governor’s chamber (“I think we’re once again making history,” Schutz said), it is not out of character with the personal spirit of the executive office, he said.
“That room, unlike the other big rooms in the State House, is more than just a public room,” he said. “It is the governor’s office.”
Moreover, he said, it’s an apt theater for a piece that sets out to satirize power and those who hold it.
“Quite frankly, as a curator, I think it’s kind of exciting in that we’re using the room in Vermont that is perhaps most attached to that idea as the setting for these figures,” Schutz said.
The governor lauded his wife’s works in a statement.
“I’m proud of Katie’s talent as an artist and am pleased to have her work displayed in my office,” he said.
Shumlin and Hunt married in December.

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