Visual artist Lisa Hunt pays attention to what she sees in the world. “I’m constantly observing patterns in my everyday life that find their way into my work,” says Hunt, from her studio in East Orange, New Jersey. “When I started out, I knew I wasn’t going to be a painter,” and, so, she instead combined lines, symbols, and typographic elements on her canvases and screenprints, revealing the in nite possibilities of shape and repetition, with much of her work distinguished by her use of gold leaf. Drawing inspiration from traditional West African textiles and African-American quilt-making, her work explores the spatial and meditative relationships between patterns.

Making A Splash

From her studio workspace in New Jersey, Lisa Hunt creates paintings, murals, collages and products such as the LOVE tiles for Ann Sacks

Hunt was a creative little kid whose talent her mother, Asha, recognized and encouraged. “My mom was really good at art,” Hunt recalls, “and she nurtured her children’s artistic interests with everything from making our own Christmas decorations to teaching us how to sew and knit and crochet.”

Though born in Rome, New York, the geographical center of the state, where her father, James, served in the United States Air Force, Hunt grew up mostly in the Colorado suburbs. Already by the age of , she admits to being “in love with magazines, even obsessed with them.” Studying the pages of Seventeen and Mademoiselle in her bedroom, she decided that, “Somehow I knew magazines were my future.”

Making A Splash

Lisa Hunt’s LOVE tiles for Ann Sacks

Pursuing her dream, Hunt studied graphic design at Pratt Institute and began her career in New York City art departments, working her way up the corporate ladder from graphic designer to art director and finally, at Essence magazine, to the post of creative director. In , craving a change from corporate culture, Hunt resigned her full-time position, giving up a steady paycheck to begin freelancing, providing herself the flexibility needed to develop as an artist. When she left the job she’d earned through her talent and experience, people—including her father—thought she was crazy. But she’d saved a little money, and freelancing was a way to support herself while pursuing her interests in printmaking and textiles. “Freelancing was kind of demoralizing at times,” Hunt recalls with a chuckle,“especially when I’d be asked to put together a table of contents. But I was working hard to change careers, trying to figure out how to turn this boat and make a living.”

Making A Splash

Royal Palm by Lisa Hunt

So, Hunt took classes and imagined and dreamed. She also researched the greeting card and home textiles industries, but she found herself turned o by trade shows. Her soon-to-be-husband, artist and former Pratt classmate Kyle Goen, strongly encouraged her to “do her art,” offering to share space in his Brooklyn artist’s studio.

There, Hunt started creating different shapes and motifs she says she was drawn to instinctively. “I’d play around with these shapes on the computer,” she explains. “Then I’d print them out, cut them up, and reconfigure them, wondering: Is this a textile? Stationery? A pillow? And because my husband had an art studio, I was able to start screen printing.”

After Hunt’s work was featured in a major design magazine, she heard from textile designer Lori Weitzner. As Hunt recalls, “We talked about which pieces of my art would translate nicely, and we launched our collaboration in 2020. It was an exciting project and a very good first experience.” Subsequent exposure at design shows resulted in numerous inquiries, including ones for translating her designs into materials such as tiles.

Making A Splash

Hunt’s Rounds Negative and Rounds Positive are works on rice paper

One inquiry, in particular, led to Hunt’s latest collaboration translating her graphic motifs into stoneware, a line of dimensional tile handmade in the U.S. and named in honor of Hunt’s earliest creative inspiration—her mother. Asha by Lisa Hunt MADE for Ann Sacks features a curated palette of six glazes reflecting hues frequently seen in Hunt’s artwork.

In her smartly executed second act, Lisa Hunt has successfully transitioned from her -year career as an image-maker and creative director to become a fine artist—and one whose love for textiles and home interiors has brought her success as a collaborator in the design industry. Hunt and Goen left Brooklyn and now share a home in Maplewood, New Jersey, with their dog, Sally.

Straddling the gap between fine art and commercial design, Hunt sometimes struggled with her creative identity, questioning whether she really should be doing the things she did, worried about compromising her integrity as an artist. “I wondered: If I dip my toe in the commercial world like this, will I still be taken seriously in the art world?”

Making A Splash

Hunt’s collages, such as Ombré Coils, reflect the artist’s ongoing interest in lines, symbols, and typographic elements, with emphasis on the medium of gold leaf

The answer seems an unequivocal yes. Hunt was invited by Macy’s to design the windows in Herald Square for Black history Month; her work has been acquired by two museums; Google recently purchased an entire suite of her new collages for installation in their New York headquarters; and she’s at work on her first mural for a building in downtown Brooklyn. “I’ve never done a mural before,” she says, “so I’m learning and stretching, and that’s very exciting, and the Ann Sacks thing is still blowing my mind!”

Hunt believes negative thinking will stop you from doing what you really want to do, and she says it’s vitally important to find your own way and make your own path. “I spent my childhood wondering, ‘Can I do that? Am I allowed to do that? But I made it happen.”

Making the changes to her creative life and career was hard at times, “but,” Hunt says, “I think what guided me through is that I’m a creative person with enough faith in myself to figure things out.”

In memory of Lisa Hunt (May 3, 1968 – January 20, 2024).  This story appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of MILIEU. 

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