Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. - Nathaniel Hawthorne (author)

Kara Walker, mistress of silhouette

American contemporary painter, silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, and film-maker Kara Walker explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes. Admittedly, I've only seen a small amount of her work (thanks PBS!), but it still resonates with me.

Best known for her panoramic imagery of black figures against a white wall addressing history of American slavery and racism through violent settings and unsettling imagery. Her other mediums are gouache, watercolor, video animation, shadow puppets, "magic-lanterns" and large scale sculptures.
Her exploration of American racism can be applied to other countries and cultures regarding relations between race and gender, and reminds us of the power of art to defy conventions. - Wikipedia
Walker’s work pokes holes in the romantic idea of the past—exposing the humiliating, desperate reality that was life for plantation slaves. She also incorporates ominous, sharp fragments of the South’s landscape; such as Spanish moss trees and a giant moon obscured by dramatic clouds. These images surround the viewer and create a circular, claustrophobic space. Some of her images are grotesque, using physical stereotypes such as flatter profiles, bigger lips, straighter nose, and longer hair helps the viewer immediately distinguish the "blacks" from the "whites". It is blatantly clear in her artwork who is in power and who is the victim to the people with power. There is a hierarchy in America relating to race and gender with white males at the top and women of color (specifically black) at the bottom. Kara depicts the inequalities and mistreatment of African Americans by their white counterparts. Her work is provocative and emotionally wrenching, yet overwhelmingly beautiful and intellectually compelling." Walker has said that her work addresses the way Americans look at racism with a “soft focus,” avoiding “the confluence of disgust and desire and voluptuousness that are all wrapped up in racism.
Her nightmarish yet fantastical images incorporate a cinematic feel. Walker uses images from historical textbooks to show how African American slaves were depicted during Antebellum South.The silhouette was typically a genteel tradition in American art history; it was often used for family portraits and book illustrations. Walker carried on this portrait tradition but used them to create characters in a nightmarish world, a world that reveals the brutality of American racism and inequality. - Wikipedia


  1. Wow, this is pretty deep. I cannot recall ever seeing nor hearing of this; very interesting! Thanks for all the 'lessons' via your blog!


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