Octavia Butler loved science fiction as a child, but she never saw any versions of herself depicted in the traditionally white, male genre.
“So at about 14 she said, ‘Well, I guess I have to write myself in,’” said Candace Hunter, the creator of a new Butler exhibit at the Hyde Park Art Center. “And she did. And she did it to much applause and much fanfare.”
Butler became one of the most celebrated science fiction authors of her generation, winning two Hugo awards, two Nebula awards and a MacArthur Fellowship before her death in 2006.
Hunter, who developed the exhibit, is a distinguished artist in her own right. She’s a longtime artist-in-residence at HPAC who creates collages, paintings, installations and performance art to tell stories about the nuance of injustice and human experience.
In her new exhibit, “Candace Hunter: The Alien-Nations and Sovereign States of Octavia E. Butler,” Hunter invites people into some of the worlds that Butler created. She explores themes like forced displacement – central to Butler’s “Parable” series – and racial integration – a key element of Butler’s “Xenogenesis” series.
“She takes so many heady topics and bends them into science fiction,” Hunter said. “She is giving you truth in palatable ways in which you can then start examining yourself.”
Hunter explained how sci-fi both shows us to ourselves and offers possibilities of what we can be. She also gave host Erin Allen a tour of the exhibit, which is open through March 3 at the Hyde Park Art Center.