Candace Hunter’s artwork unambiguously and eloquently expresses stories of the unheard and unacknowledged. The Chicago artist brings life to these works through her emotional storytelling and interpretation of current and past events. Hunter is also a culture writer, curator, and water rights activist.
She created four pieces comprising “No Sanctuary Here,” as a response to the Charleston church massacre in 2015. “If you can not find sanctuary in church, where is that place?” she asked. In her pieces, you can see churches burning.
The sanctuary pieces are made of found materials and took two years to perfect.
One shows her daughter regurgitating the flag. “Every little black girl and little boy are wholly and proudly American,” Hunter said, “and there is this force saying they are not.”
Hunter said she took time to ensure that this work in the series “spoke to the intense anxiety Black folks and allies feel.”
Her work has been widely exhibited. The artist studied art and performance at Barat and Mundelein colleges in the Chicago area. Growing up in Chicago, Hunter was surrounded by Black role models. Her mother was a public school teacher and her father, she’s written, was fluent in COBOL. As a child, she traveled abroad with her parents, visiting the Louvre, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the pyramids. Her grandfather, James S. Hunter, was the first Black state representative in Indiana, and led the desegregation of schools in the state in 1949–five years before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v Board of Education. Growing up, Hunter said, honor, duty, service, and education were important. “My art speaks to how I was raised. How do I visually share what I know?”
One element Hunter incorporates in work is numerals. She uses them to provoke conversations around inequality and historical and contemporary systemic racism. This becomes especially clear in her “Hooded Truths” installation, drawing attention to the disproportionate incarceration, and unfair treatment black men on Death Row in the United States.
Hunter said she aims to “visually discuss law and society in slavery and racism through physical spaces.” Another noteworthy piece in the “Hooded Truths” project is “Middle Passage,” a wooden cutaway of a slave ship, which strongly references the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. The Black, unarmed seventeen-year-old was murdered when he was wearing a gray hoodie after buying Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea at a 7-Eleven. Hunter used a hood to represent each slave, forcing an acknowledgement of the connection between contemporary racism and slavery. More hoods, and popular corner store food items, were on display. The installation also included a branch with hoodies swinging from them–to connote the connection to lynching.
Hunter does not see herself as a “reactionary artist,” responding immediately to events–she takes time to process how historical events can be reformed into tools to educate and prompt vital discussions. She creates work for “anyone who will listen,” she said, adding, “My art speaks my heart. I just want people to stop and think about how wonderful it is to have a faucet. You are in a blessed place and until you understand that, you cannot reach out a hand to anyone else.”
Hunter’s very recent work is closer to home; she was recently asked to participate in a project around Chicago neighborhoods to promote and educate community safety during the pandemic. She said she was honored to be asked to participate, and even more thrilled to learn her two billboards would be placed in a familiar neighborhood, Brainerd, on the South Side, near her former high school.
Candace Hunter‘s work accompanied fiction by Sandra Jackson-Opoku last year in ACM.
Originally from Minneapolis, Margo Strifert is a travel writer who cherishes good poetry, indoor gardens and fresh tea. Margo recently graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder’s English department where she also studied Anthropology and Philosophy; however has decided to pursue a career in writing and publishing. Although she is a new writer and creative, Margo’s work has been on Glasse Factory and Wild Bum‘s websites, as well as in print in Borrowed Solace. She competes in poetry slams across the country. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, but she hopes to continue her pursuit of literature in Chicago soon.