Anthony Hurd is a contemporary artist known for his distinctive style that explores themes of identity, inner landscapes, and self-expression. He was born and raised in the Kansas City, Missouri area, and has lived in various cities throughout the United States, including Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Sedona, Austin, and now Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Hurd’s artistic style has evolved significantly over the years, with his past work focusing on internal landscapes — the rise and fall, rebirth, and destruction of the worlds within. Recent years have seen a shift in his focus toward expressing something external instead of internal, his work evolving toward abstracted portraits that delve into the concept of identity, exploring why we identify with the aspects of life that we feel make us who we are. Lately, though, Hurd has embraced a romantic streak and an urgency to create art that embraces the queer representation he wishes he’d had as a child.
Hurd spends a significant amount of his time in the studio, balancing administrative tasks, handling gallery work, and dedicating time to his own painting and digital work. The artist describes his work routine as busy and varied, with a typical day involving social media updates, email responses, gallery administration, painting, digital sketching, and planning for future projects.
When not in the studio, Hurd enjoys spending time with his partner and stepdaughter, going on long drives, taking photos, and cuddling with his dog, Pearl. He also enjoys home improvement projects, as he recently became a homeowner thanks to bull-run earnings.
Please enjoy our interview with painter and digital artist Anthony Hurd.
Brady Walker: From what I can tell, you’ve been an artist your whole life. Was there any particular piece or artist or work of art outside of visual arts that you can pinpoint as having set you on a trajectory?
Anthony Hurd: As early as I can remember, when I learned what an artist was, and that it was an option for a job when I grow up, I wanted that for myself. There have been many influences along the way, through every facet of my life really. Music, skateboarding, clothing, design, illustration, advertising, photography, queer culture, you name it. It’s all been a major factor in my trajectory.
BW: Do you still skateboard?
AH: Unfortunately no. Other than just around my studio occasionally rolling around. At the age of 48, when I fall, I no longer bounce. That and considering my hands are my livelihood, I can’t take the kind of chances I did in my youth, I’ve got a family to support.
BW: You said in an interview with Hi-Fructose in 2015: “The one thing that has never changed about my work is that it always revolves around a greater connection to a world beyond our comprehension. It’s always an unanswerable question for me. I paint about my views on our connection to each other, to nature, to spirit, to the soul. But they are always hanging questions, unanswered, lingering because I cannot in good consciousness use the word “know” these days. I have a feeling about what might be, but the older I get, the less I believe I truly know or really even need to know.” So my question is, 8 years later, without saying that you know anything, how would articulate this connection you alluded to? As someone with a meditation practice, does something resembling a Buddhist worldview inform this feeling of connection?
AH: It just “is” I suppose. Eight years later, I’m now older still and the urge to explain or even articulate my feelings seems to dwindle with each passing year. It is cathartic to read that quote though. I’ve moved a bit away from the expression of overall connection and more into the realm of individual identity and how we relate to the world. Even more so in recent months, I’ve been focused on queer culture and visibility. Reverting back to almost a child-like state, loose renderings, and perspectives of what it might have been like to have such representation in my youth. The impact that would have made on me.
BW: Facial features disentangled from the face that holds them is a signature of your work. Where did this motif start creeping into your body of work?
AH: After many years of doing what I classified as “Inner Landscapes,” I shifted from what felt like an abstracted take on emotional journeys to start to face and embrace my own personal demons. Namely some strange experiences that haunted me as a child, nightmares, religion, anxiety and depression, grappling with my parents’ strong hold on addictions, I started putting a face to the fears.
In addition, it was a reflection of what I was seeing around me. The pains of my friends and family amidst toxic political climates, ongoing protests, and then the COVID pandemic. I also wanted to explore just completely dismantling identity. What makes a face? A figure? A being? How disparate can elements get while still maintaining a relationship with the viewer that registers as a figure?
BW: The pieces that you’re working on right now are perhaps an even bigger shift than the two I just mentioned. If you were feeling Dark Optimism in 2015, your new work feels like bright, expressionist romanticism. What inspired this new body of work?
AH: In 2015 I had just gotten out of an 18-year relationship. It was not an easy time for me by any means, but I always sought to find something optimistic to look towards. Over the years since I’ve become “me” again. That’s to say I feel more like myself, maybe more so than I’ve ever experienced. Reuniting with a lot of the freedoms of my youth, it’s been a lovely journey of just exploring whatever inspires me.
In January of this year (2023) I had my first solo show in a museum in Los Angeles, it was an exciting time, but while I was overwhelmed with the love of it all, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones, when I got back home in New Mexico it felt a bit empty. Like the work I presented was not personal enough, it was more surface than I’d have normally presented, and so it set me on a path of exploration to find a new freedom.
I have a tendency to refine, control, tighten, and strangle my own work. I can see myself doing it already with the new work despite my efforts to avoid it. So while much of my work from the last few years started as exploratory, it became a tightened and buttoned-up effort.
In this most recent work, I’ve been working more to specifically tackle themes I’ve avoided in the past. My own queerness. Something I’ve always been open about but still have plenty of issues to work through, so I started at the beginning. I thought to myself, What in my youth did I not receive? What lacked in my understanding? How could it have been better, easier?
And with that, I landed on romantic queer representation. Something completely nonexistent for me in the ’80s. I want people to see queer people taking up space, feeling comfortable, and being more focused on their love for another than their fears of society. So with no experience in the style, I just jumped in, and let it consume me.
I’m learning, I’m growing, and I’m loving it. It’s scary, and it’s very vulnerable work for me, not to mention making a major shift I’m bound to lose people who’ve expected something of my work that I may no longer be interested in delivering. But in all my years of making art, nothing feels more natural than the work I’m doing now.
BW: My favorite work of yours is probably from the Verified show that debuted earlier this year. You seemed to have pushed abstraction in portraiture to its extreme limit while making the most direct references to the crypto world of your career (e.g., WAGMI Bot and Do You Even Crypto Bro? as well as [to a less direct extent] Doom Scroller and Zucker-Lon (The String Pullers)). Can you tell me about this series of paintings?
AH: It’s funny, I love the creations of this show but I definitely think it’s my most shallow work. It was my direct take on the effects of social media. The bouts of depression and anxiety that the algorithms seem to inflict, the hype, the facade, it’s all an illusion.
The crypto world and NFTs, in general, can be pretty amazing, but the amount of smoke and mirrors is pretty hefty. The internet as a whole feels pretty predatory and manipulative at this point. It has even the most authentic people jumping through hoops to try and find what parts of themselves to reveal for the best interaction and connection. We’re like children in a school play and we’re all trying out for each role, one by one looking for the perfect fit. But this is the show I was referencing in the previous question that sent me to explore new styles.
BW: You were a successful artist before crypto art emerged. Why jump on the blockchain at all?
AH: Success is like enlightenment I guess, it’s not permanent, haha, it’s fleeting. I don’t want to limit my own reach. Like many of us artists though I saw this new space that was exciting and fascinating, and I watched many friends jump in and make a good amount of money in the process of having fun. So I wanted that, money and fun.
At the peak of the market, I made enough money to put a down payment on my house and pay off most of my debts at the time. That’s a good place to start. From there, I’ve been bouncing back and forth. It’s hard to fully focus on the blockchain and my fine art career so I tend to take turns giving one more attention than the other based on what the markets are doing.
BW: How do you balance working digitally with your painting practice?
AH: They go hand in hand honestly. Digital work changed my work practice with physical paintings completely. Giving me a way to explore compositions and ideas before ever diving into the paint, but often I explore things digitally that never need to be translated to paint. This new body of work is a big collaboration between the two as I use AI to come up with my references before I paint them. The physical pieces are more free form but they take their nods from the ideas I explored in AI and then in digital paintings first.
BW: What other art forms (and creators working within them) inspire your work?
AH: I couldn’t tell you whose work inspires me the most right now. In this culture-consuming world, I consume art like the rest of us consume food: to live. It’s addictive, it’s wonderful, and it’s nonstop. I love architecture, interior design, textiles, and fabrics, I love photography, especially fashion photography, I love skateboarding and music culture, queer culture. I love drag, and I love food.
I’ve been exploring found object sculptures for my backyard. Having a yard now to do as I please I’m really excited to just make more things with my hands. I love working on the house, painting walls and just jumping into projects with little knowledge of what I’m doing and figuring it out on the fly.
BW: You quite recently closed the A. Hurd Gallery as a gallery space for other people to show at. Why?
AH: Last year back in November I had a couple of artists who were struggling with shipping costs internationally, and then another who had injured themselves and was unable to deliver. No real issue there, the holidays are slow so I didn’t mind, but I ended up doing three shows online instead of in the gallery and I was able to utilize the entire space to just focus on finishing up my show for January in LA with Thinkspace Gallery.
At that time, I realized I needed that privacy — that me-time — more than I knew. I had been using the gallery as my studio, but I had to keep it clean and clear and that hindered my explorations more than I’d been willing to admit. So though I had almost an entire year’s worth of shows booked for the gallery, I decided to face the facts: I didn’t want to run a gallery at this time. I wanted to paint.
The gallery started as an experiment and evolved into a much larger project that took up a lot of my time and space. So I canceled all the shows and worked to focus on my own work instead. For myself, I made the right decision.
BW: Having been a career artist for a while, can you offer any advice to newer artists about marketing themselves?
AH: There is no “one size fits all” way to go. I have 20 years of marketing experience and while that is great for creating assets, animations, and whatnot, I don’t have it all figured out. There isn’t one path, so just do what works best for you. Be as true and honest with yourself as possible. Admit your limitations and exploit your strengths. I’ve seen artists take decades to build their careers and I’ve seen others blow up from a single viral video. Neither was a “better artist” than the other nor was one better at marketing themselves. It’s just the way the world works.
BW: How does frustration manifest in your creative practice? How do you overcome it?
AH: I paint it out. If I’m angry, I paint it out. If I’m frustrated, anxious, depressed, have a creative block, miss my mom, hate my ex, need a nap, it doesn’t matter, I paint it out.
Just the other day I was having a shitty day for various reasons and I just grabbed the spray paint from the garage and went out back and painted some abstractions on my old shed. The week before, I took apart some old chairs and turned them into some weird yard art. Sometimes I just pick up the iPad and just literally push colors around, explore shapes, and play. Somehow it helps me move through the emotional aspects.
BW: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self about art and creativity?
None, I wouldn’t have listened to a word of it from an old man, or a young one for that matter. We have to experience things to learn, so I’d say go experience life.
BW: You wrote in your artist statement on your website that, after a very hard upbringing followed by a troubled early adulthood, you’re finally happy. How did you get to this point, and how might you advise someone who’s found themselves at a personal low point, such as one you might have had?
Life is all ups and downs, never static, never balanced. Perfection is impossible, so learning to embrace where you are is the best I can offer. I have plenty of shitty days, but I know them to be fleeting. Happiness is in the little moments, not the big ones, at least for me. It’s in my nap on the hammock with the pups next to me, game night with my partner and kid. It’s time with friends, and it’s time completely by myself as well. Focus on what’s in front of you, right now, not yesterday or tomorrow, those bring you nothing but anxiety.