© 2015 Jeffrey Mansfield

1/15

Clementine Hunter House at the Watermill Center 

 

Inspired by the self-trained African American artist Clementine Hunter, who didn't begin painting until her fifties, and whose paintings depicted the social life of laborers living on a Louisiana plantation, American artist Robert Wilson composed an opera in 2013, Zinnias: the Life of Clementine Hunter. A replica of Clementine Hunter's house was constructed for the opera, and relocated to its present site in 2014 on the campus of the Watermill Center in Long Island. 

Located in an open lot encircled by a forest, visitors approach the House along Water Mill Towd Road, entering a bamboo forest where a gently winding path guides visitors to a terraced wildflower garden. Ascending along the central path, with the roof of the House slowly rising above the horizon, visitors arrive to a large landing where encounter a vast field containing apple trees planted symmetrically along a narrow central path, after Ms. Hunter's painting. The narrow path leads to the House, its width allowing only a single visitor to approach the house. Once inside the house, a gallery of Ms. Hunter's original paintings tell the story of plantation life.

As part of the Center's 2014 Summer Residency, I supervised the re-assembly of the structure and working closely with Robert Wilson, led the landscape design of the new site. 

Photos © Lovis Osternik, Julian Mommert, Maria Baranova