The life of Stephen Huneck is inextricably wound up in his art, and his art is beloved by all who follow him and his antics with dogs – and other icons of his world. He does not believe that life imitates art, as is often said; for Huneck, as author Laura Beach so aptly says, “It [art] is life, life in all of its beautiful, comical, and painful complexity.” In The Art of Stephen Huneck, Beach explores and reveals the intricate balance of Huneck’s work and life; in his world “small wonders loom large; the large and pompous are comically cut down to size.”
Huneck is perhaps most well-known as the author and artist of his six books on Sally, a raven-haired Labrador, including the best-selling Sally Goes to the Beach and his first, My Dog’s Brain, published in 1997. When people come to his Vermont home and The Dog Chapel or his Woodstock gallery, they always ask about Sally, his muse and model for many of his celebrated sculptures and woodblock prints.
But Huneck is much more than an author and illustrator; he is a self-taught sculptor and furniture maker of incredible and whimsical pieces from “Shaker” chairs, Dachshund lamps and stair banisters, to intricately carved chests within chests that reveal his close affinity with New England folk art traditions and his exquisite skills as a craftsman. All of his complex work is featured in this beautiful book.
In this volume Beach features those aspects of Huneck and his work that are well-known and make him a beloved contemporary artist; she also explores different themes in his work: nuns, corporate executives in playful mode, bathing beauties and angels. This book reveals the breadth and depth of Huneck’s talent from antique-inspired furniture, woodblock prints and sculptures to his enclave at Dog Mountain where he created a charming Vermont village complete with a Dog Chapel and picket fences spiked with a Wonderland quality that brings hundreds of visitors and their dogs every year.
This lavishly illustrated volume (215 full-color illustrations) is a welcome addition and resource for fans, collectors and anyone interested in Huneck’s art and Americana. As a critic in Boston Magazine wrote, “The work of Stephen Huneck is like laughter – enriching and uplifting to the soul.” This finely crafted book offers a window into the world and soul of this amazing contemporary artist.
The Art of Stephen Huneck, by Laura Beach, Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 100 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10011; 2004, 224 pages, hardcover, $50.