Candace Hunter: The Alien-Nations and Sovereign States of Octavia E Butler

In Chicago‐based artist Candace Hunter’s largest solo exhibition to date, The Alien‐Nations and Sovereign States of Octavia E Butler, she explores ideas from Parable of the Sower and Xenogenesis Trilogy (Lilith’s Brood) by speculative fiction author Octavia E Butler (1947‐2006). Hunter presents a new series of collage‐based works, installations, video, and sound works that illustrate the meticulously sculpted worlds Butler imagined in her novels, examining their significance for Black bodies and future societies.

Work with synthetics plants, remnants of an ongoing culinary experiment, a reading nook, and imagined portals to other worlds make up what Hunter describes as an “alien lush space.” The exhibition examines the concepts of nationhood, asking questions about who is other and in what situations do we see people as other to ourselves? How do we become universal? Comparing the Parable of the Sower to the Trump era and using Xenogenesis Trilogy (Lilith’s Brood) to explore what “alien” worlds might exist beyond America and its race relations today, Hunter’s exhibition creates a speculative space where multiple generations come together to envision a better future.   

  • November 11, 2023 – March 3, 2024
  • Kanter Family Foundation Gallery

This exhibition is generously supported by:

Candace Hunter: The Alien-Nations and Sovereign States of Octavia E Butler

In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, when the phrase “I can’t breathe” became prevalent in the fight for justice for Black lives, Hunter believes that “the future is breath,” and focuses on the statement as a sign of life and growth. The phrase will radiate in neon in the exhibition, reminding visitors of Afrofuturism’s dependence on the preservation and elevation of Black bodies and voices in the present.   

Rooted in her identification as a Black woman and spanning over two decades, Hunter’s work has explored the crises she predicts will impact twenty‐first century society at large, from capitalism and climate change to food justice, humanism, and the politics of water. In Butler’s novels, the Black female heroes navigate an earth devastated by climate catastrophe and war to lead survivors to a new world ‐  either on this planet or the next planet. Through this immersive installation and corresponding program of talks, readings and writing workshops, Hunter aims to create a generative space for the public to imagine a liberated future.

About The Artist

Candace Hunter (chlee), a Chicago-based artist, creates collages, paintings, installations, and performance art. Plainly, she tells stories. Using appropriated materials from magazines, vintage maps, cloth, and various reused materials, she offers this new landscape of materials back to the viewer with a glimpse of history and admiration of the beautiful.

A highly respected artist in the Midwest, chlee’s recent honors include the Elevate Climate Changemakers Award (2022), 3Arts Next Level Award (2021), the Tim and Helen Meier Family Foundation Award (2020), the 3Arts Award (2016) and honored by the Diasporal Rhythms Collective. She was also a featured speaker at the 24th Gwendolyn Brooks Black Writers’ Conference: We Are Each Other’s Harvest (2022), and the Midwest Women in Ecology Conference (2019).

Hunter’s most recent notoriety has come from her Brown Limbed Girls series, which are painted and collaged 20×20-inch works, more than 130 and counting, that were born during the COVID-19 pandemic and their sole purpose was to depict brown girls in various states of joy. To date, those images have been featured on Chicago billboards, three book covers, in two major shows in New Orleans and Oakland, and in many private collections, including that of Actress CCH Pounder.

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