The Grid Turns The Corner is a traveling mid-career retrospective of drawings and prints by Dr. Terry K. Hunter that illustrates the evolution of his experience as an artist. Hunter says he hopes the exhibit will take viewers on a similar trip through history.

Hunter believes in the power of words, of poetry and crossword puzzles. As a professor of art since 1977 and the executive director of Clemson’s Fine Arts Cultural Enrichment Teaching Studios in Orangeburg, Hunter finds inspiration from his role as an artist-educator. He likes to tell his students, “A letter in the alphabet is a design. You put the letters together, and they form a word, the words form a sentence, sentences form a paragraph, and then we have a story. We all have stories to tell.”

Hunter’s story begins with the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the music of the ’60s. As a young black male growing up in the South, Hunter used his art to reconcile the mixed messages of church ideology with images from the media.

“As an intense and impressionable young observer, Hunter had trouble rationalizing the words of the sermons and music he was hearing with the realities of the world he was seeing,” the exhibit catalog explains. Feeling disjointed, Hunter used his drawings to “come to grips with things.” Drawing allowed him an “immediacy of self-expression.”

Hunter’s early works are nonfigurative and illuminate the artist’s appreciation of color and form. In the early ’70s, Hunter was influenced by the paintings of Charles White and the poets and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance. In Strugglin’ Fokes: Manchild’s Burden, a lithograph from 1977, Hunter depicts the loss of innocence in the face of young black boys who had to grow up too early.

In the early ’80s, Hunter’s art evolved, and he began to use his own lens to filter his personal experiences. An early example can be seen in the 1977 lithograph, Sammy’s Yo-Yo Tricks. A stopwatch, a dollar bill, a male prisoner’s face, and an eagle on a yo-yo string symbolize aspects of time. The country’s bicentennial celebration inspired this piece.

Hunter’s role as an educator has always been a major part of his inspiration. When his students complained about the difficulties of drawing folds, the artist began drawing for pleasure and as a method for teaching. Hunter also drew portraits of his wife Gilda during this period. “My wife is an integral part of the work and history,” he says.

In Anderson’s Coat, the grid design is used to convey different levels of meaning and to pull the viewer closer. Hunter wants his work to ask questions and inspire viewer participation. A hand seems to beckon from inside the black-and-white grid, while another set of hands reaches out and upward, like the hands of a preacher, while yet another peels back an opening, pulling the viewer in closer to inspect the possibilities hidden within. “I want this work to ask more questions than it answers,” he says.

In his artist’s statement, Hunter encourages viewers to keep their explanations and interpretations inside one’s own mind. “There, they can be whatever one makes of them.” And whatever one makes of them, the exhibit will take viewers on a trip through history with Hunter as their guide.