In contemporary art history, 30-something year old black artist, Kara Walker is best known for her life-size black silhouettes that bring an artistic vision to civil rights history and racism.
Her work has been seen at places like the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Walker is the second youngest recipient of the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant, earned at age 27.
Walker is a native of Stockton, CA. She received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994, following in her father’s footsteps, who is also an artist and professor.
Many blacks have found Walker’s work controversial, arguing about the way she presents her graphic artwork. For example, in her piece called “The Battle of Atlanta,” a white southern soldier is raping a black girl while her brother watches in shock. In another work, a young black slave girl skips past a tree with a lynched black man swinging above. Her first piece, “Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart” was most controversial.
In her exhibits, Walker uses panoramic rooms filled with detailed black silhouette cut-outs. You can see the terrifying expression of a person’s face or the blades of hair in the slave master’s beard. After Hurricane Katrina, Walker created “After the Deluge”, which compared Katrina victims to victims of the Middle Passage. Walker’s other works include “Darkytown Rebellion”, “Slavery Slavery” and “Elegy for a No-Account Niggra.”
The Detroit Institute of Art removed Walker’s “A Means to an End: A Shadow Drama in Five Acts from the Where the Girls Are: Prints by Women” from the DIA’s Collection exhibition after a crowd of blacks protested against the piece.
Kara Walker is currently working as a professor of visual arts in the MFA program at Columbia University. Her work has been seen all over the world: The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the Art Institute of Chicago.