I’m not really about blackness, per se, but about blackness and whiteness, and what they mean and how they interact with one another and what power is all about…Challenging and highlighting abusive power dynamics in our culture is my goal; replicating them is not.
First known for large-scale tableaux of cut paper silhouettes, Kara Walker has utilized a broad range of media in her practice including silhouettes, prints, film, video, and installations. Walker’s thought-provoking investigations of race, sexuality, history, gender, and identity engage on many levels. Often playing off of stereotypes and the misconceptions they can lead to, Walker has—by design—encouraged a wide range of responses from a wide range of viewers. As she states:
I didn’t want a completely passive viewer. Art means too much to me. To be able to articulate something visually is really an important thing…I wanted to make work where the viewer wouldn’t walk away…
Walker’s book, ultimately a pop-up with its dimensional pages, crosses media boundaries in RAM’s collection as a work on paper, an artists’ book, and an object. Her piece also subverts expectations in that it combines a popular children’s book format with a complex, layered narrative. This kind of work, which operates in between categories, can be pivotal in encouraging conversations about assumptions and relationships, where compositional choices become metaphors for society. While her installations and larger works envelop visitors, this book pulls viewers into a smaller, more intimate—yet no less powerful—space. From there, Walker offers a narrative about freedom through the eyes of a female slave.
Kara Walker received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island. Currently the Tepper Chair in Visual Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, her work has been exhibited extensively and can be found in museums and public collections internationally. She is the recipient of many awards, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award.