This Sunday artist James B. Hunt wants to give you the bird -- 23 of them, to be precise. Hunt, who also goes by NXOEED, plans to perch his bird paintings all around Tempe for anyone to seek and find.
And once you find a painting, it's yours to keep.
Originally, Hunt had planned to show his birds at Parliament, but, when a scheduling conflict arose, he couldn't give up on the idea of having a show on Sunday, February 23 (a significant number for the artist). So he decided to stick with the date, deciding to hide his paintings around Tempe instead. We recently spoke with Hunt via e-mail about birds, art hunts, and giving away paintings for free.
You've done several art hunts in the past. Can you tell us a bit about those -- were they successful? I've been hiding art around town for a little over 10 years. I'm constantly hiding my work. If I happen to run into a spot that looks like it could use a painting, I put one there. Some of them never get found. As for the official "Art Hunts" like the one coming up, I do them about two or three times a year. The paintings are usually found within two or three hours.
How did you find 23 different birds to paint? Do you seek out birds in a special place in Tempe? I do quite a bit of birdwatching in my spare time. The Salt River bed is always a great place to do that. Papago Park is another, especially along the bike path near the canal. Any place with green trees and a little bit of running water is a great spot to catch them in action. I'm not a terribly experienced birdwatcher, meaning that I don't really know their different names and where they come from. It's not a hobby to me the way that it is to a lot of other people. I just kind of spot them and try to sketch them out before they leave me.
What is the significance of the number 23? I first learned about the significance of the number 23 from Robert Anton Wilson at a relatively young age, and from there went on to read the Principia Discordia and other books on Discordianism. I never really considered myself an adherent to Discordianism or anything like that, but I've certainly come to regard the number as magical and somewhat chaotic. When I'm in the middle of a project and it happens to show up, I run with it. It takes me to strange places.
How does it feel to give your art away for free? I love doing it. I'm really into found objects, especially rocks. I think randomly-found objects that appear out of nowhere and offer themselves up for the taking are the best material things on the planet. They don't really feel like they're free to me. They feel earned. There's a value in coming across something of relative worth at random that you can't really put a number on. I have my share of shows in galleries and spaces, and I like doing them, but I think the act of hiding art over time is what caused me to fall in love with this city in a way that a lot of people who rarely venture out and explore their surroundings aren't able to. I'm beginning to realize now that we're getting closer to the date that this art hunt -- featuring 23 birds, on a Sunday, on the 23rd of February -- is so meant to be that it's almost a self-portrait.
Where can we find the birds this Sunday? I'll be hiding five of them in Maple-Ash, five near Apache and McClintock, five near Southern and Rural, five near Price and University, and three near Mill and Southern. I'll be posting photos and clues on the Facebook invite in the late afternoon, once I've gotten them all hidden.