“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.” –Bruce Feiler
Ever wondered why turtlart is turtlart? Sarah Hunter chose the symbol of the turtle for her art practice and art business when she first started her career as a professional artist in the late 1980’s. She chose the turtle partly because of the old saying from Aesops fable of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race. Sarah wanted to grow her art work and career slowly and with intention.
The symbol of the turtle is an ancient one and is one of the oldest symbols in art. In China the turtle was seen as a symbol of uniting heaven and earth. It was seen as an invitation for blessings from both the heavens and the earth.
Turtle is a symbol of mother earth in many Native traditions and the turtle was believed to carry the world on it’s back. This is how North America came to be known as turtle Island among many indigenous cultures. The turtle is also associated with fertility, women’s sexuality and creativity.
On this page: select turtle images from Sarah Hunter’s collection. Enjoy!!
Working on these three pieces inspired by Shakespeare helped me to appreciate all the theatre my dad exposed me to as a child. We were often taken to shows at Stratford and my dad put on several Shakespeare plays at Hart House theatre when he worked there in the 1970’s. I am familiar with many of the quotes from various plays… but one of his favourite plays was the Twelfth Night. All the titles for these three works are taken from that play.
The films I watched that inspired these pieces were Shakespeare in Love, Romeo and Juliet by Zeffirelli, The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michaelangelo and Brideshead re-visited by Evalyn Waugh.
Sally Rappeport is one of Sarah Hunter’s earliest patrons having acquired several pieces including [insert piece title]. As an acupuncture and herbalist, Sally currently lives in Brooklyn but the two met during university where she first saw her works hanging in Sarah’s apartment.
“The piece with the dogs is my favorite. It has such energy and passion.” -Sally Rappeport
“I love the quiet dignity that she imbued her with, her face is proud, butch and feminine all at the same time. I just love all of it.” -Parris Sander
Parris Sander is a legal administrator for a large corporation downtown Toronto who saw Sarah Hunter’s portrait of Hannah Gluckstein at a Nuit Rose show. “The moment I walked into the show I saw this portrait and I couldn’t stop looking at it. I kept pointing it out to people, and finally, I knew I had to buy it… I believe it was meant to be.”
After being invited to one of Sarah’s shows, writer, film and television director and producer Brad Wigor’s favourite purchased a portrait of his modern composer, Benjamin Britten. And according to Brad, his favourite part of the painting is “Britten’s sanguine look”. Thank you Brad!
“The portrait represents our shared love of classic films and theatre. It represents queer history in the arts and it impacts on mainstream culture.” -Maria Calandra
A dear friend of Sarah ‘TurtlArt’ Hunter, Maria Calandra met Sarah through their mutual love for film and theatre, which is how she came to purchase Tennessee Williams. One of Marie’s most memorable experiences was our visit to the Shaw Festival where they saw Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and this solidified Williams appreciation as being ‘our thing’. Shortly after that outing, I saw the Williams portrait at an exhibit and knew it had to be mine!”
Sonja Scharf and Kelly Kyle are the creative directors at Akasha Art Projects. They had known Sarah Hunter through the art community but got to know her when she came to them for framing. But it was her participation in their annual Artival show which ultimately inspired them to purchase Janet Flanner and Lady Una Troubridge from the queer artist portraits series.
“I am by no means an art expert. That being said, I remember when I saw this piece, I was struck by the complex use of black and greys and the subtlety of the face that she painted. Without even really knowing what the piece was about or even called, I felt moved by it and kept looking at it as though I wanted to have it.” says Leslie Robinson about Sappho which he purchased.
Leslie Robinson is a second-year law student, friend of Sarah Hunter and frequent visitor to their art shows and studio. Leslie adds that he was attracted to this particular work because of it’s “strong feminine feel.” To see more of Sarah’s work, click here.
While I was working on the Mother’s Comb series of paintings in my artwork, I found that I started to uncover issues that had always been present in our relationship. I think her disapproval of me being gay and not wanting me to come out was a kind of unspoken dialogue we had growing up. She was very repressed by her family and kind of passed that on to me. I took on some of her repression and didn’t realize I was acting it out in my own life unconsciously. I also think that growing up in the family I did where the men were very dominant impacted both of us a lot.
Women were not seen as very important except to be the kind of handmaidens of men. They were there to serve and defer to men. In the mother’s comb series I started to explore the mother’s unconscious wish ( my mother’s wish) to repress my sexuality and queerness and her unspoken message to follow the path she had which was to get married and have children. So there are lots of images of the mother with her magical comb….a symbol also of her hair which I associate with sexuality. And my mother had a thing about her hair….Her hairdos were legend. She spent a lot of time on her hair. Then there are images of naked women in the artwork, forbidden fruit as it were, and images of a woman on a journey which includes, owning who she is, coming out, defying the conventions of society and searching for meaningful relationships.
There are also images of couples embracing, they could be two men or two women it’s not always clear and images of the aging father and husband of my mother who is also somewhat ambivalent about the journey he witnesses that his daughter has embarked upon.
I had been struggling with the final painting in this series and then one day put three tombstones into the picture. When I finally added these three images I realized it was about the deaths that had occurred in my family in the last two years. My mother, her sister my Aunt Alison, and a dear friend in England all passed away within 6 months of each other. The piece started to come together once I added the tombstones. Then as a kind of final gesture in the piece I placed a fourth tombstone in the painting, larger than the others and my dad passed away in the next few days….so I realized ok, I see this is about processing my mothers’ death but also the imminent passing away of my father as well. My dad died two days before my mothers birthday two years after her.
I also think this series is a way of processing the relationship I did have with my mother, which really improved in the last few years of her life. She made a lot of amends to me at the end of her life and we were on good terms when she died. Prior to that time we were not close and I always felt I wanted to get close to her but couldn’t somehow. She stayed a mysterious person to me most of my life, someone I wanted to be close to but it was very difficult for her to open up and share herself with me.
“You get to define what success means for you don’t let society or the art market decide that for you.”
In Sarah’s off hours she is a dedicated full-time artist whose work is as beautiful as it is provocative. In 2008 she began what was to become her Queer Portraits collection including such notables as Oscar Wilde, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. In a recent interview with Sarah I asked her about the collection, her sources of inspiration and got some sage advice for those just entering the field. READ MORE