Artist

Clementine Hunter

born near Cloutierville, LA 1886/7-died near Natchitoches, LA 1988
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Photo by Carolyn Ramsey, Courtesy of Gilley's Gallery
Born
Cloutierville, Louisiana, United States
Died
Natchitoches, Louisiana, United States
Nationalities
  • American
Biography

On a Louisiana plantation built on the labor of enslaved workers and reinvented, in the twentieth century, as an artists’ and writers’ retreat, Clementine Hunter painted everyday scenes she felt historians overlooked. Black Americans in her Cane River community dominate narrative images in which the artist reclaimed cultural pride and conveyed her multifaceted spiritual and ethnic identity. Hunter made pictorial quilts and small paintings, but her most iconic works include nine room-size murals painted in 1955, inside a building at Melrose Plantation called African House. The paintings reflect on personal memories but carry persistent undertones of protest regarding both race and gender. Particularly noteworthy in Hunter’s work are her portrayals of Black women as strong, caring, capable people who give foundation to their entire community. In the last decade of her life, Hunter’s dreams of independence were realized, when the sales from her art enabled her to buy a house trailer and depict that place—humble but hers—as home.
(We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection, 2022)

Exhibitions

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Artworks by African Americans from the Collection
August 31, 2016February 28, 2017
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to an extraordinary collection of artworks by African Americans with more than 2,000 objects by more than 200 artists. From William H. Johnson’s vibrant portrayals of faith and family to Mickalene Thomas’s contemporary exploration of black female identity, SAAM’s holdings reflect its long-standing commitment to black artists and the acquisition, preservation, and display of their works.
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Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women
May 31, 2024January 5, 2025
The artists in Subversive, Skilled, Sublime: Fiber Art by Women mastered and subverted the everyday materials of cotton, felt, and wool to create deeply personal artworks. This exhibition presents an alternative history of twentieth-century American art by showcasing the work of artists such as Emma Amos, Sheila Hicks, and Faith Ringgold, who, stitch by stitch, utilized fiber materials to express their personal stories and create resonant and intricate artworks.
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Galleries for Folk and Self-Taught Art
October 21, 2016January 31, 2030
SAAM’s collection of folk and self-taught art represents the powerful vision of America’s untrained and vernacular artists. Represented in the museum’s collection are pieces that draw on tradition—such as quilts—as well as artworks that reveal a more personal vision.

Related Books

Cover for the catalogue "We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection"
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection
We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection traces the rise of self-taught artists in the twentieth century and examines how, despite wide-ranging societal, racial, and gender-based obstacles, their creativity and bold self-definition became major forces in American art. The exhibition features recent gifts to the museum from two generations of collectors, Margaret Z. Robson and her son Douglas O. Robson, and will be on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum July 1, 2022 through March 26, 2023.