On Tuesday, Jan. 19, the National Museum of Women in the Arts will celebrate self-taught artist Clementine Hunter’s birthday with a virtual happy hour. The latest in a popular series of creative ‘toasts’ to notable women artists, the event will feature artworks and stories about Hunter’s life. A local mixologist will teach participants how to craft a specialty drink in her honor.
Clementine Hunter (1887–1988) lived and worked most of her life on a cotton plantation near Natchitoches, Louisiana. She began drawing and painting in the 1940s when she was already a grandmother. Hunter painted at night, after working all day in the plantation house, and used whatever surfaces she could find, including canvas, wood, gourds, paper, snuff boxes, wine bottles, iron pots, cutting boards and plastic milk jugs. Working from memory, she recorded everyday life in and around the plantation, from work in the cotton fields to family funerals. She rendered her figures, usually Black, in expressionless profile and disregarded formal perspective and scale. Though she first exhibited in 1949, Hunter did not garner public attention until the 1970s when both the Museum of American Folk Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibited her paintings. She continued to gain local and national attention for her complex depictions of Black Southern life; Hunter was the first Black artist to have a solo exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1986.
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