Alumnus offers a gift and a challenge to Race Center's artist-in-residence

It started with a CD and a set of instructions.

Samantha Hill had long admired a series of photos taken by Patric McCoy, AB’69, an art collector and photographer. When Hill, artist-in-residence at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, asked McCoy if he would allow her to use three of the images for an art project of her own, he upped the ante.
McCoy presented Hill with 1,500 of his photos on a CD—and four instructions:

  1. You can show them to anyone that you choose.
  2. Show them in a dark room on a screen.
  3. Play jazz in the background.
  4. Have a discussion about significant events and experiences during the ’80s.

Hill set to work translating McCoy’s instructions into a singular art event, “The Gift from Patric McCoy to Samantha Hill,” which featured McCoy’s photos and live music from experimental musician FluiD.

On Tuesday, May 10, Hill and McCoy, along with Kym Pinder, associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Leslie Wilson, a PhD candidate in Art History, and Rebecca Zorach, associate professor in Art History, will participate in a panel discussion about Hill’s work.
McCoy’s instructions offered inspiration rather than limitation, Hill said. “I can use this as a catalyst to create a great experience for people that’s also social and political, that involves many people coming together,” she said. “Why can’t we all share in the ownership of this one experience?”

The photos, taken between 1980 and 1992, are primarily candid shots of black men in Chicago, the Caribbean, and Zambia. The subjects include men of all classes and backgrounds in their homes and on the street. For Hill, that diversity is part of the collection’s appeal. “You see them for who they are,” she said. “I think the diversity of the document counteracts what mass media has portrayed black men to be.”
“I didn’t have to do any direction. [The subjects] would create the environment,” McCoy said of taking the photos in an interview with the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. “This is how people wanted to be seen.”
As she reviewed the images, Hill was struck by the colorful and often funny titles McCoy had given to his photographs. In one photo, “Mocking Royalty,” a small girl laughs at a man wearing a makeshift crown that has been knocked askew.  For many of theimages, Hill decided to include the title as a “watermark” on the image. “You get insight into what Patric was thinking when he took the shot,” Hill said.
Hill is thrilled to have the opportunity to bring McCoy’s images to a wider audience.  “He’s allowing me to share it freely,” she said. “This piece, for me, is all about the gift.”