In his latest series, The Birds Will Sing, Denver-based artist Shawn Huckins takes inspiration from the seemingly innocent title of an old Cajun folk song – one that instead of being sweet and lovely, as you'd expect, turns out to be a murder ballad.
Huckins' oil paintings follow this deceptive theme, as what appears at first glance to be simply breathtaking landscapes soon reveal a darker twist with overlaid statements plucked from social media on the subject of modern love. It's typical of Huckins' technical skill and wit where he expertly references our often "rosy" view of history in contrast with our complicated present.
Taking inspiration from the public domain and museum collections of classic American paintings, his landscapes, in the tradition of the great 19th century masters like Bierstadt and the Hudson River School, are paired with text pulled from platforms like Twitter. These phrases appear in the texting acronyms, digital shorthand, and misspellings of current virtual communication.
The hasty text certainly makes a sharp contrast, both in terms of its form and content, compared to the beautiful landscapes Huckins paints that represent a much different era when communication wasn't so quick and easy.
The immediacy and speed of contemporary life deeply impact our human connections – sometimes for the better, but sometimes not. In Huckins' paintings, we're left wondering, is all this technological advancement good for us? Are we still able to emphasise and connect to one another in a meaningful way? Particularly now personal lives and loves are now so "out there", on display for all to see. Yet, despite a loss of privacy, the heartbreak of love is something people from both past and present will know only too well.
Shawn Huckins attended Keene State College, Keene, NH, and The University of Wollongong, Australia, and received his BA in Studio Arts in 2006. His work appears in private and public collections across the country, including The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA, The Tucson Museum of Art, The TIA Collection, and The Vicki Myhren Gallery at The University of Denver.
His latest series, The Birds Will Sing, is on show at the George Billis Gallery in Los Angeles until 8 May 2021. To discover more about the artist, visit shawnhuckins.com.