Nikita Hunter

NIKITA HUNTER, WHO GREW UP NEAR Detroit, Michigan, received her formal art training at Interlochen Arts Academy, a high school for the arts. She went on to major in painting at Syracuse University where she attained a baccalaureate in fine arts. Her focus in painting is her identity in America and throughout the African Diaspora.

Hunter’s works have been published in the Art Review, a Syracuse University art magazine and the National Conference of Artists’ Newsletter. Her paintings have been displayed in juried shows at Interlochen Arts Academy, Syracuse University’s Lowe Art Gallery, Yeshiva University, Joseph P. Kennedy Community Center in Harlem, New York University, Rush Arts Gallery in the Chelsea art district, NYC Urban Experience Gallery, and most recently at Restoration Center for Arts and Culture’s Skylight Gallery.

“What inspires me the most is the ability to tell stories through art.”

Hunter has donated her time and volunteered at MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diasporian Arts); and has taught classes at Decatur Public School/World Leadership Academy, and High School for Leadership and Public Service. In addition to exhibiting her works throughout the tri-state area, she is an Art teacher for the Department off Education, and currently lives in Brooklyn.

artistic statement

Art and spirit are one. Realizing this, I integrate my spiritual and artistic experience to understand the spiritual aftermath of the middle passage that has left many African Americans void of links that connected them to their ancestors and traditions from the continent. In my work, I have sought to find those links and bridge the gaps by studying Yoruban religion, and compare it to my grandmother’s spiritual survival tactics. I have used my paintings to convey my questions about traditions. Particularly in “What’s Your Identity”, I integrated a primitive application of paint with fragments of oral traditions, masks, maps, and images to illustrate how African culture and spirituality transcended the middle passage and impacted my sense of identity today, despite my confusion on how to honor cultures of an intermixed heritage of African and Seminole Native Americans. I used the hair, black and red to illustrate that fusion of cultures, and I used the patchwork quilt format to unify all of the questions and fragments the summed up my existence.

Currently, in my work on the Hottentot Venus, I am questioning notions and standards of beauty of yesterday as well as the exploitation and degradation of black women to mere objectified hyper-sexualized freaks seen in pop culture today. The work on the Hottentot Venus, born Saartjie Baartman, was influenced by my ideas on standards of beauty, and how I see myself, a thick lipped, small waist-ed, big hipped black woman in a society whose beauty standards opposes all of those attributes. I attended schools where I was always a minority and always questioning why models like Beverly Johnson, singers like Aretha Franklin, or a beautiful rapper like Queen Latifah did not drive the modes of fashion and beauty when I was growing up. Sure, I looked up to them, but my peers did not.

What inspires me the most is the ability to tell stories through art. I aspire to not only appeal to one’s aesthetic, but to teach a lesson in history. Contemporaries who influence me in that regard are Jacob Lawrence for his storytelling of African-American history, Betye Saar for her incorporation of mixed media and found objects in her work, Carrie Mae Weems and Adrian Piper for their savvy, political consciousness, Deborah Willis for her photographic social commentary on the black female body, and Faith Ringgold for her veneration of the ancestors through her quilts.

One of my goals is to become an artist who teaches lessons not only through the scope of an African-American, but on a level where I reach people internationally, cross-culturally, and most importantly emotionally. I hope my work on Saartjie Baartman leaves viewers with an aesthetic enjoyment and gives them some education on this important figure in history.

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