Sunday, April 18, 2010
Art From Her Heart
Written by: Kathy Whitehead
Illustrated by: Shane W. Evans
Recommended ages: 6-10
I seem to be on a biography kick lately. I keep migrating to that area in the children's section of the library and picking up books and discovering people I have never heard of. This was certainly the case when I picked up Art from Her Heart. I'm so grateful to have been introduced to Clementine Hunter and her amazing story, and I think you'll feel the same way too.
Clementine Hunter was born sometime in late 1886, early 1887 and was a descendant of slaves. She worked as a manual laborer on a plantation in Louisiana. At the age of 50 she decided she wanted to paint. So she used leftover paint that artists gave her and began to paint on any surfaces she could find--old boards, window shades and glass bottles. Her pictures were drawn from memory, and gave a snapshot of life on the plantation. She painted scenes of working life on the plantation, as well as happy celebrations. Soon she decided to charge admission so that people could see her work, and put a sign on her gate that read: "Art Exhibit. Admission 25 cents."
Years later, her art made it to a big museum in New Orleans. Although in those days she was not allowed in during working hours, but instead had to wait until after hours to see her own work on display.
This is a wonderful little story on so many levels. It introduces children to a remarkable woman who at the ripe old age of 50 (!) decides to follow her dream. It also introduces them to that period in history where segregation was the norm. They will feel incensed when Clementine Hunter is not allowed into the museum that is displaying her work during working hours. It's a perfect segue into talking about that dark period of American history. The illustrations are colorful and bold, and the ideal backdrop to the story. There's an author's note at the end, which tells more about Ms. Hunter, and includes some snapshots of some of her folk art.
BookNosher Activities: I immediately wanted to see more of Ms. Hunter's art. So I googled her name and found images of her art. One piece was a decorated jar. It might be fun for kids to find non-traditional surfaces and use them as their canvas, much the way Ms. Hunter had to in the beginning of her career. I bet they are able to come up with some really interesting pieces of folk art themselves.