After our class visit to the MHC Art Museum, I wanted an excuse to share more of Kara Walker’s amazing prints and silhouettes! Here is the one we saw last night:
(Kara Walker, no world, 2010. [plate: 23 7/8 x 35 5/8″ (60.6 x 90.5 cm); sheet: 30 1/4 x 40 3/4″ (76.8 x 103.5 cm)]
It’s actually the first of a series of six prints called An Unpeopled Land in Uncharted Waters. I’ve included them in order here:
Kara Walker, beacon (after R.G.), 2010. [plate: 10 5/8 x 7-7/8″ (27 x 20 cm); sheet: 30 1/4 x 11 7/8″ (76.8 x 30.2 cm)]
Kara Walker, savant, 2o10. [plate: 24 x 13 7/8″ (61 x 35.2 cm); sheet: 30 1/4 x 17 7/8″ (76.8 x 45.4 cm)]
Kara Walker, the secret sharerer, 2010. [plate: 23 3/4 x 23 3/4″ (60.3 x 60.3 cm); sheet: 30 1/4 x 27 3/4″ (76.8 x 70.5 cm)]
Kara Walker, buoy, 2010. [plate: 23 3/4 x 32 1/8″ (60.3 x 81.6 cm); sheet: 30 1/4 x 36 1/4″ (76.8 x 92.1 cm)]
Kara Walker, dread, 2010. [plate: 23 7/8 x 11 7/8″ (60.6 x 30.2 cm); sheet: 30 3/8 x 15 7/8″ (77.2 x 40.3 cm)]
As with a lot of Kara Walker’s work, I have a hard time unpacking the layers of symbolic and stereotypical imagery contained in this series. I’m especially confused by savant; I think it is a black woman, with her face covered by a white mask or bonnet, and some sort of flying insect (a fly or bee) to the left of her face. The word “AGAIN” is written above the bow at the top of the mask (in quotes), and background is split in half–gray on the top, and white on the bottom. I think this piece asks if color determines intelligence, then crushes the idea with an absurd mask on a person. They cannot see, speak, or even breathe, suffocating the woman as she tries to meet the societal standards of 19th century America. I still don’t know what to do with the fly or the words, and would love some input on what all of you think!
If you’re interested, I also found an amazing video on Kara Walker from PBS, which shows how she works and creates, as well as why she uses specific forms of imagery together. It’s about 50 minutes, but the first 15 minutes show her setting up and cutting the images for an installation.
And, because I am so fascinated by her art (and wanted to show the scale and gorgeous craft in her paper silhouettes), here is one of her first installations, based on the novel, Gone with the Wind.
Kara Walker, Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart, 1994. [Overall 13 x 50′ (396.2 x 1524 cm) ]
(For more information, here is the link to the MoMA entry for the installation: http://www.moma.org/collection/works/110565?locale=en)