In 1976, Walter and Leonore Annenberg commissioned a 30-foot-tall red cedar totem pole for Sunnylands, their 200-acre California desert estate. Canadian First Nations artist Henry Hunt, a Kwakiutl chief, carved the masterpiece that stands on the fifth fairway of the Sunnylands grounds. In 2010, his son Stan Hunt and grandson Jason Hunt restored the historic pole and rededicated it in 2012. The Reach for the Sky: Tradition + Inspiration exhibition extends the Hunt legacy of Kwakiutl art at Sunnylands by introducing the work of Stan Hunt, and Jason Hunt.
Unknown to the Hunt family, American musician and artist Herb Alpert visited Stanley Park in Vancouver in the 1980s and was inspired by the Kwakiutl totems there to make vertical sculpture. The exhibition of artwork by the Hunt Family and Alpert explore the ways in which artists inspire each other across culture, space, and time.
Reach for the Sky: Tradition + Inspiration is on view from September 11, 2019, through June 7, 2020, at Sunnylands Center & Gardens.
Admission and parking are free.
Reach for the Sky
The Sunnylands totem pole was carved in 1976 by Henry Hunt for the fifth fairway at Sunnylands.
Killer Whale carved by Henry Hunt, 1979.
This was one of the last pieces created by Henry Hunt, who died in 1985. On this killer whale, he carved a bear on the dorsal fin and a Hawk-man on the tail.
Sea Bear totem carved by Stan Hunt, 2012.
Kwakiutl artists primarily carve characters that are family crests. The Sea Bear, Sisiutl, and the halibut depicted on this totem are all Hunt family crests.
Hok-Hok mask carved by Stan Hunt, 2015.
Central to the prestigious Hamatsa dance, masked dancers depict an elaborate story involving three mythological bird guises. This is the first bird to dance in the ritual.
Multiple Raven mask carved by Jason Hunt, 2016.
“The most important of all creatures is the Raven. He bridges the real world and the spirit world together. In our stories, he is the creator and a trickster.” —Jason Hunt
Owl mask carved by Jason Hunt, 2016.
Animals have supernatural symbolism in the Kwakiutl culture. Mice are believed to be messengers who gather information throughout the village. Owls eat mice, ingesting knowledge, which makes them wise.
The Dancing Mountain painted by Herb Alpert, 1988-2001
“I’m a right-brain guy. I paint, I sculpt, I play trumpet, and I have a good time doing all three.” —Herb Alpert
Sculpture models by Herb Alpert
Alpert begins his sculpture process with wax. If satisfied with the piece, it is then executed in clay and in some cases, bronze. These figures are working models, some of which were executed in larger sizes.
Henry Eugene Hunt (1923–1985)
First Nations artist Henry Hunt carved the Sunnylands totem pole in 1976. In 1951, he apprenticed with his father-in-law, Mungo Martin, who was then Chief Carver at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia. Henry held the position of Chief Carver from 1962 to 1974. One of the most famous of Henry’s works (carved with Martin) is the 100-foot pole presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1958.
Stanley Clifford Hunt (b. 1954)
First Nations artist Stanley (Stan) Hunt (b. 1954) apprenticed under his father, Henry. Stan carved his first totem pole in 1982—a commission for Jean M. Auel (author of The Clan of the Cave Bear). Stan carves in his home studio in Fort Rupert on Vancouver Island in Canada. His works are found in private and museum collections around the world.
Jason Henry Hunt (b. 1973)
First Nations artist Jason Hunt (b. 1973) was inspired to carve by his father, Stan. He found that he had a natural connection to the craft that has been passed down through generations. Like his father and grandfather, Jason has maintained the traditional practice of carving by hand. He is a working artist who carves in his studio on Canada’s Vancouver Island.
Herb Alpert (b. 1935)
Renowned American musician Herb Alpert (b. 1935) is also a painter and sculptor who works from his Los Angeles studio. Emphasizing the communication of emotion through art, Alpert’s work appears in private and museum collections throughout the world. In 2012, Alpert was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
The exhibition catalog, Reach for the Sky: Tradition + Inspiration, contains an essay by Anne Rowe, Sunnylands director of collections and exhibitions since 2009. A past president of the board of trustees of the Copley Society of Boston, she is the current president of the board of governors of the Western Museums Association and serves on the board of trustees for Modernism Week. Rowe received her master’s degree in organizational development from the University of San Francisco and a master’s degree in museum studies from Harvard University.
The digital catalog is available for free download below, along with a free downloadable coloring page designed by the Hunts.
Hard copy versions of the catalog are available for purchase through the Sunnylands gift shop.