Response: Kara Walker
In my readings of the unit, History Lessons, Kara Walker was an artist who stood out to me a great deal. Her work is unique from all the other artists I had seen thus far. Walker is recognized for her black paper silhouettes, which were popular in her earlier works of the 19th century. She uses cut-out imagery that explores the interrelationships between race, sex history, and politics in the United States.
It is evident that many of her works touch on the issue of race—and racism, (although she claims that in the beginning, her characters were neither white nor black). As an African-American, growing up in the south, she became interested in the issue. She began reading first-hand accounts of slavery, and notes that “genuine slave narratives have a rough, man-handled quality, full of sex and violent material, which was often cleaned up for readers-black and white-in polite society.” She confronts the issue of racism (among issues of eroticism and violence) in her piece, ‘Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart’ (1994), in which the title and the piece’s imagery clearly reference the movie, Gone With the Wind, and touch on the idea of southern slavery.
Other forms of injustice in which Walker explores are brutality involving class and gender, such as the migration of African Americans from rural south to the industrial northern U.S. states, the challenges facing female singers of the jazz age, the consequences of Hurricane Katrina, and the abuses by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib (all subjects of Walker’s work). She also uses a mix of politics and art, and credits Nancy Spero and Sue Williams among Goya, Hogarth, and Daumier as her inspirations.
In Walker’s more recent art, (2000), she begins to employ overhead projectors that cast colored shapes onto cut out paper wall works, creating instillations consisting of both moving...
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