An often-repeated story about Clementine Hunter is she did not like people. Far from the truth, the reality was she did not like certain people, but she overwhelmingly liked kids and visitors who came to learn and listen.
The best example is one I witnessed on a Tuesday afternoon when I made my weekly visit down Cane River from Natchitoches.
As I was driving up, I saw Clementine sticking her head in a car window talking to the driver. She stepped back and the car drove off.
When I got out, Clementine walked over to my car, and I asked, “Who was that?”
She grinned and said, “They wanted to know where Clementine Hunter lived, and I told them just up the road.”
Later, I took two friends from Baton Rouge, Diana and Paul Burns, out to visit the artist, and Diana told Clementine she had just had a little boy they named Reed. Clementine asked questions about the newborn kid and then gave the Burns a fresh painting as a present for Reed.
The artist liked sincere and honest visitors. The loud and boisterous types were not welcome guests. These are the ones who would be the source of stories about Clementine Hunter not liking visitors.
We have all experienced the phenomenon of something becoming true once it is in print.
Having collected an extensive archive of over 1,200 printed stories, articles, and memorabilia related to Clementine Hunter, I have struggled to correct erroneous “facts” that have been published or retold over the years.
An impetus for Art Shiver and me to write the Hunter biography for LSU Press was to put in print a researched and documented version of what all happened at Melrose, not only with Clementine and her art but also with the other stories of Melrose and its visitors that continue to be told.
You can hear more stories about Clementine and learn about her work at a book signing and lecture on February 21 at 6 p.m. at the Old Governor’s Mansion hosted by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana. Authors Art Shiver and Tom Whitehead will also be signing on February 22 at 5 p.m. at the LSU Barnes & Noble.