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A. Hurd Gallery opens with first solo exhibit: ‘I Was Born in a Gay Bar’

Swirls and waves of vibrant color drape Anthony Hurd’s haunted masks like swathes of kimono silk.

The artist was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised on skateboard culture.

“Current Mood” by Anthony Hurd. (Courtesy of the Artist)

He turned to fine art five years ago after spending 20 years in the advertising industry. He recently opened A. Hurd Gallery in Albuquerque, both as a gallery and studio space.

Describing himself as the weird gay kid who made his own clothes, cut his own hair and painted all night after skateboarding all day, Hurd spent 10 years in Los Angeles, then left for Palm Springs, next Sedona, Arizona, and finally Austin, Texas, before coming here to be closer to his partner’s daughter.

He had long wanted to open a gallery.

“Current Mood” by Anthony Hurd. (Courtesy of the Artist)

“I was a business partner in a design firm in my 30s, then I sold my stock and started freelancing,” he said.

That gave him time to create art on the side.

“Growing up, I always wanted to be an artist,” Hurd said. “I was completely deterred from being an artist; it was, ‘Get a real job and do this for a hobby.’ ”

He launched his new series “Current Mood” during the pandemic quarantine. Hurd based the original painting on a frightening childhood experience. From about age 7 to 15, he would wake up and see what looked like an Indigenous mask sticking out from beneath his bed, watching him sleep, then vanishing when he awoke. His mother told him this was the work of Satan and that he needed to pray for his soul. He spent many years worrying about the mask’s reappearance as well as its meaning.

“I’m Here for You” by Anthony Hurd. (Courtesy of the Artist)

More recently, he forced himself to face those fears and create versions of the mask to act as protectors. The images take on new meaning amid spiraling political chaos, disintegrating climate, racial strife and the stripping of LGBTQIA rights.

For him, the masks act as skin under our skin; a shield against roiling emotions and fears.

His first pieces were psychedelic landscapes. He traces his influences to the work of artists like the Austrian Symbolist Gustav Klimt and his protégé Egon Schiele, as well as skateboarding, music and magazines.

“I’d always wanted to do these portraits, which were inspired by the election of 2016,” he said. “I started experimenting with portraits of friends of mine, but they weren’t literal. When the portraits hit, I really went into overdrive. I needed to put a voice to that.”

“She Fancy” by Anthony Hurd. (Courtesy of the Artist)

Some observers have seen the masks as a continuation of his landscape psychedelia.

“I get grouped with that psychedelic term a lot, yet I’m a completely sober person,” Hurd said with a laugh. “I think some of that still comes from skateboarding, even the clothing with really bright patterns and colors.”

The show’s title “I Was Born in a Gay Bar” stems from the artist’s coming out at age 19.

“I felt it was the first time I could be myself,” he said. “It was a lot about finding my own identity.”

Hurd uses acrylics and spray paint, a holdover from when he lived in small spaces with scant ventilation for oil.

“Current Mood” by Anthony Hurd. (Courtesy of the Artist)

He begins by painting on the canvas before photographing the work and transferring it to an iPad. He sketches across the image, then refers to the results as a map.

The gallery’s first group exhibit, “What a Weird Time to be Alive,” will open on June 11. The show will feature pieces by 17 artists of both national and international status.

” ‘What a Weird Time to be Alive’ will present an abstract view of reality,” Hurd said. “This global pandemic forced many of us to reflect inward due to the amount of time spent alone.”

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