Talking With Tebe: Clementine Hunter, Memory Artist

Overview

Born in northwest Louisiana in 1886. Called Tebé by her family, Hunter lived and worked on Melrose Plantation for more than 75 years. In colors as bright as the Louisiana sky, she shows the backbreaking work required to pick cotton, gather figs, cut sugar cane, and harvest pecans. Tebé's art portrays the good times, too. Scenes of baptisms, weddings, and church socials celebrate a rich community life that helped the workers survive. Hunter's work holds a special place in art history. She was the first self-taught...

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Overview

Born in northwest Louisiana in 1886. Called Tebé by her family, Hunter lived and worked on Melrose Plantation for more than 75 years. In colors as bright as the Louisiana sky, she shows the backbreaking work required to pick cotton, gather figs, cut sugar cane, and harvest pecans. Tebé's art portrays the good times, too. Scenes of baptisms, weddings, and church socials celebrate a rich community life that helped the workers survive. Hunter's work holds a special place in art history. She was the first self-taught artist to receive a fellowship from the Rosenwald Fund, in 1945, and the first self-taught African-American woman artist to receive national media attention. Between 1945 and 1987, over fifty museums and galleries showed her works. Some writers have called Clementine Hunter a creative genius. To others she was not a real artist but a "plantation Negro." Many were surprised that an older woman with no training could produce art at all. Now considered one of the finest folk arti

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The story of her life and art is fascinating, and Lyons has let Tebé, as she was called, tell it in her own words, culled from taped interviews and magazine and newspaper articles. Each short chapter is a well-put-together collection of her pithy comments on some facet of her daily life on Merles Plantation. Hunter's bright, colorful, childlike paintings and a handful of black-and-white photographs decorate the book and illuminate her words. The result is an attractive and appealing volume. Its strength is its wonderful depiction of an extraordinary individual who could not read or write, who lives in the same place all her life, but was nationally known and respected. The book could serve every collection as an excellent biography of a strong woman, as insight into an artist's vision and work, and as a unique slice of Southern history." Booklist, ALA

"Tebé's story contributes to Lyons's growing collection of biographies of African-American artists. Lyons's entire text here is in Clementine Hunter's own words, gathered from magazines, newspapers, and twenty-two taped interviews made by a friend of Hunter's. . . . Totally self-taught and using as her first paint old tubes relegated to the trash, Tebé reconstructs her life on canvas, and Lyons's text sizzles with feistiness, determination, and humor. An editor's note and afterword provide ample evidence of Lyons's thorough research, and speak forcefully about how Tebé's art was dismissed by those who ironically profited from it." Horn Book

"Lyons introduces an extraordinary woman in Clementine Hunter, through careful collages and interviews that present the artist's story in her own words. Born in Louisiana in 1886, Hunter (called Tebé by her family) lived a 'slavelike existence' on the Melrose Plantation, where her back-breaking work consisted of picking cotton, harvesting pecans, gathering figs, and cooking for the owners - all while raising her five children, and painting in rare spare moments. Hunter didn't consider herself an artist, although her self-taught paintings and quilts are indeed works of art. The expertly edited interviews create a glowing portrait of a hard-working, outspoken woman who died in 1988 at the age of 101; the narrative flows, a conversation with the artist about her life that also offers insights into the folk-art style." Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Jackie Hechtkopf
This compelling biography of an African-American sharecropper who gained national recognition as a self-taught artist blends southern history with the story of a spirited, independent woman worth knowing about. Born in 1886, Clementine Hunter remembered seeing her father pick four hundred pounds of cotton in a day. She herself set babies on the end of a cotton row, while she worked for less than two dollars a day. Clementine painted her first picture on a shoebox top with old tubes of paint found in a wastebasket. Before she died in 1988, at the age of 101, her work had been displayed in museums across the country. Editor Mary Lyons has masterfully pieced together audio and print interviews to allow Clementine to tell her amazing story in her own words. The result is an intimate visit with a woman who expressed her soul through art created late at night after a full day's work. Color illustrations give examples of Hunter's work with informative captions. Art teachers will be delighted by the elegant explanation of folk art. Social studies teachers will love the vivid historical lessons. Every reader who comes in contact with this book will be enriched.
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up-Clementine Hunter was an African-American primitive painter who lived all of her 101 years in Louisiana as a manual laborer. Born in 1886, she began painting late in her life. Although untrained, she created works of art now owned by many American museums. The story of her life and art is fascinating, and Lyons has let Tebe, as she was called, tell it in her own words, culled from taped interviews and magazine and newspaper articles. Each short chapter is a well-put-together collection of her pithy comments on some facet of her daily life on Melrose Plantation ("My People," "Housework," "Field Work," etc.). Hunter's bright, colorful, childlike paintings and a handful of black-and-white photographs decorate the book and illuminate her words. The result is an attractive and appealing volume. Its strength is its wonderful depiction of an extraordinary individual who could not read or write, who lived in the same place all of her life, but was nationally known and respected. The book would serve every collection as an excellent biography of a strong woman, as insight into an artist's vision and work, and as a unique slice of Southern history.-Judith Constantinides, East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA
Horn Book
Tebe's story contributes to Lyons's growing collection of biographies of African-American artists. Although the previous biographies have included generous quotations from the creators, Lyons's entire text here is in Clementine Hunter's own words, gathered from magazines, newspapers, and twenty-two taped interviews made by a friend of Hunter's. Organizing the material chronologically, Lyons has Hunter (nicknamed Teb,) take us through her "Girlhood," "Field Work," "Marriage and Children"; through "Housework" and "Painting," "Success" and "Moving." She records her life in the informal language of her people of the Cane River in northwest Louisiana where she lived her entire one hundred and one years. The final chapter, "Still Working," has the greatest intimacy-it's as if Tebe, were engaging in a one-on-one conversation with the reader. Although we don't have the advantage of hearing Tebe's rich Creole voice (something Lyons describes as "as satisfying as eating a piece of pecan pie"), photographs of the artist amplify the strength and pride of this woman who, while born a free woman, lived "a slavelike existence." Yet it is her artwork that best tells her story: in vibrant colors her paintings reveal the drudgery and indignity of fieldwork and the joy of community, especially religious community. Totally self-taught and using as her first paint old tubes relegated to the trash, Tebe reconstructs her life on canvas, and Lyons's text sizzles with feistiness, determination, and humor (Tebe's husband, kept up at night by her painting, says, "Woman, if you don't stop painting and get some sleep, you'll go crazy." She retorts, "No, if I don't get this painting out of my head, I'll sure go crazy"). An editor's note and afterword provide ample evidence of Lyons's thorough research, and speak forcefully about how Tebe's art was dismissed by those who ironically profited from it.
Kirkus Reviews
Lyons (Catching the Fire, 1997, etc.) introduces an extraordinary woman in Clementine Hunter, through careful collages of interviews that present the artist's story in her own words. Born in Louisiana in 1886, Hunter (called Teb‚ by her family) lived a "slavelike existence" on the Melrose Plantation, where her back-breaking work consisted of picking cotton, harvesting pecans, gathering figs, and cooking for the owners—all while raising her five children, and painting in rare spare moments. Hunter didn't consider herself an artist, although her self-taught paintings and quilts are indeed works of art. Hunter's relevant works appear throughout the book, telling stories of their own. The expertly edited interviews create a glowing portrait of the hard-working, outspoken woman who died in 1988 at the age of 101; the narrative flows, a conversation with the artist about her life that also offers insights into the folk-art style. (b&w photos, bibliography) (Biography. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395720318
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 48
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 660L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

The author of fifteen books for young readers, Mary Lyons lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Paul. Her grandfather was born in Ireland in 1869, in a place much like Knockabeg.

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