Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kara Walker

Kara Walker is an artist who is best known for her silhouettes. These silhouettes explore race, gender, and sexuality through a narrative that she creates with these figures. When I think of silhouettes, as I am sure many people do, I think of the Victorian lone head silhouette of a person, but Walker really changes this idea and brings it forward into a modern day interpretation. Her pieces are instillation pieces that are put directly onto the walls of galleries, and this creates a space that tells her story. Almost like a theater, the walls become her stage. Her forms are usually violent, and when she does her instillations, she takes special care of casted light on the walls; this way, the viewer becomes a part of the instillation and can better put themselves into the figures’ story.

No Place (Like Home), 1997

Cut paper and adhesive on wall

12X85ft (installation at the Walker Art Center)

In Kara’s pieces, it is easy to tell who is a white character and who is a black character. It is also sometimes hard to pick out just one story that she is trying to tell.

I could not find a title, a place, or year for this piece. However, this installation I have seen from her before and it is one of my favorites. Here she is playing with the ideas of romance, race, and many other issues that I am sure each viewer mush find for their own. First of all, her impeccable craftsmanship just amazes me, and although they are just figures that aren’t moving, you can tell they are in a story, as if they have been captured by the camera of history. I love the scene where there is a white man and woman about to kiss on the left; this shows the romance and how it interacts with the child and black woman in the boat. There is always violence in her pieces, and in this it is subtle, but the little kid is holding a dead bird at its neck, almost in the direction of the woman pointing her finger. The shadow to the right of the woman in the boat is almost an original Victorian head figure, although I do not know who it is. This piece just makes me question myself and the piece itself, and I don’t think that Walker had a specific answer and story for the boat scene.

Virginia’s Lynch Mob, 1998

Cut paper and adhesive on wall

10X37 feet

This piece really explains how Kara Walker uses racially charged figures and stories to get her point across of what the Old South had done to her own race. For me, the most terrifying pieces of this is the person hanging upside down on the stick, and the boy with the gun in his mouth and a piece of his brains flying at the woman behind him. It’s almost as if these black characters would rather kill themselves and go crazy than be hung by a white Virginian mob.

I wish I can someday see Kara Walker’s silhouettes in person, for I believe that a picture does not do justice to the giant and heartfelt pieces that she places on the walls of the museums she displays in.

1 comment: