Accession Number


Kara Walker

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
cut paper between linen

59 3/8 in x 83 1/2 in x 7 3/4 in (150.81 cm x 212.09 cm x 19.69 cm);59 3/8 in x 83 1/2 in x 7 3/4 in (150.81 cm x 212.09 cm x 19.69 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund and anonymous individual benefactors

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Kara Walker turns the genteel parlor art of paper silhouette, a precursor to portrait photography, on its head. “The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that’s also what the stereotype does,” says Walker. “So I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked. Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people, and a lot of people can understand it, the other side is that it also reduces differences, reduces diversity to that stereotype.” Her seemingly simple silhouettes take up complex themes, a dichotomy that gives Walker’s art added impact.
Invoking dark, unspeakable histories of the antebellum South, Walker’s imagery confronts viewers with the myriad sexual aspects of power seen from the perspectives of both the dominator and the dominated.

Subject matter
An example of Kara Walker's black cut paper silhouettes, here seen backlit within a large, framed lightbox, that engage viewers in a voyeuristic journey through unspeakable images taken from Walker's take on the Antebellum South. The four central figures, an Anglo American male at left, and an African American child and two females are engaged in power struggles that evoke both racial domination and struggle as well as sexual engagement and abuse. Visual tension is created by the disparity between the pristinely beautiful silhouettes and the atrocities their interactions represent.

Physical Description
A horizontal lighbox enclosed by a wide, black molded frame in which Kara Walker's signature silhouettes are encased in linen and lit from behind. Silhouettes represent four figures: a man and child at viewer's left, two women at right.

Primary Object Classification
Mixed Media

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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history (discipline)
profiles (figures)
racial discrimination

17 Related Resources

Black and African American Woman Artists
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
U.S. Radicalism
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)
Race, Gender, Class, and American Identity
(Part of 11 Learning Collections)
Sexuality and Censorship
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Social Justice
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Social Justice and Art, 1969-today
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
The Human Body, a survey
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Kara Walker Essay   
(Part of: Understanding Race)
Curriculum Collection
(Part of: Curriculum/Collection)
Docent Materials for Inuit 2: Reflections: An Ordinary Day
(Part of: Docent Information From Training Continuing Education Sessions)
Comparing Rico Lebrun’s “Terrified Woman With Child” to His Other Work
(Part of: <b>Rico Lebrun - His Artistic Journey</b>)

& Author Notes

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