COLUMBUS – Most folks around these parts know Bob Huot as a raiser of dairy cattle, a New Berlin Town Board member, or a local activist. Few realize, however, that he has a rich and colorful history that spans the bohemian New York City art scene, the Korean war, the world of academia, and the agrarian life he chose here in Chenango County. Furthermore, few local residents realize the art that Huot creates that seems to connect the diverse threads of his multifaceted past.
On a sub-zero day in February of 2015, in an outbuilding on Huot's sprawling farm, he and his assistant – and neighbor – Kevin Britton, were hard at work packaging up his paintings for an upcoming gallery show in Roanoke Va. Huot and longtime friend, Ed Hettig, have recently partnered up to open the Alexander / Heath Contemporary art gallery in Roanoke. Huot's work will be featured at the opening on March 6, 2015.
The building where Huot and Britton were working was filled with the artist's unique equilateral triangle shaped canvases. Each triangle is adorned with his minimalist, abstract, acrylic renderings of his worldview.
But to better understand Huot and his triangular creations, one must start at the beginning to fully grasp the simple and stable underpinnings that inform all aspects of the artist.
Huot was born in 1935 on Staten Island, N.Y. in a blue collar family. Huot's father was a member of IBEW labor union and ran a power station for the Staten Island Rapid Transit. Staten Island at that time was much different than it is today. Huot remembers Staten Island having expansive farms and some wilderness. “Growing up on Staten Island there was a lot of wildlife,” Huot said.
Huot grew up on Staten Island and eventually became the first in his family to graduate college. He graduated in May of 1957 from Wagner College on Staten Island with a degree in Chemistry. Huot paid his way through college working at U.S. Gypsum as a laborer making material to fireproof elevators. According to Huot's website, “I got my 'working papers' as soon as I could (at 14). I worked as a camp counselor, an insurance company mail clerk, in a supermarket warehouse and as a laborer at US Gypsum and worked my way through college.”
Upon his graduation from college, Huot used his Chemistry expertise to become a Pigment Chemist for Sun Chemical, working on paint development. This move was not entirely economic. Huot had been painting since he was a child and already felt the pull of art. “I've always been an artist – a painter,” said Huot.
According to Huot's website, he said, “When I think about my work as an artist, it seems I always go back to the point at which I began to think of myself as an artist, the moment I saw the possibility and considered using a major portion of my day for 'Art' activities. This happened when I was an undergraduate chemistry student at Wagner College.”
In 1958, however, Huot was drafted into the U.S. Military and served as a material specialist during the tail end of the Korean War. Upon his release from the military in 1960, Huot went back to Sun Chemical and continued his duties as a Pigment Chemist.
During this time period, Huot was studying in the Hunter College Graduate Art Department and was eventually offered a job in 1963 teaching painting, drawing, and film making. He spent the next 30 years or so teaching at Hunter until he officially retired to his upstate N.Y. farm in the early 90s.
Huot was fully immersed in the NYC art scene. His first big-time show, said Huot, was at the Stephen Radich gallery on Madison Avenue in Manhattan in 1964. This set off a series of gallery showings throughout the 60s and 70s that brought Huot's work all over the globe to locations including Switzerland and Germany.
Huot married Twyla Tharp, another up and coming artist on the NYC scene who specialized in choreography and dance.