Kara Walker: Invoking Themes Of African American Racial Identity


American contemporary painter, silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, and film-maker, Kara Elizabeth Walker explores the themes of race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. She is best known for creating black-and-white silhouette works that creatively bring home the themes of African American racial identity. Her subjects, often instances of slavery, conflict or violence, are depicted in a style recalling traditional African illustration and folklore of the pre-Civil War United States; the works preserve and draw the examiner’s focus considerably to these earlier cultural epochs.

kara walker

She lives in New York City and has taught extensively at Columbia University. Working in collages, Walker cuts out black or white paper and affixes directly to gallery walls, and makes use of light projectors to cast the viewers’ own shadows on her silhouetted narratives, creating an immense engaging experience for the viewer. Walker relies on humour and viewer interaction. She mentioned that she doesn’t want her art to be passive entirely. She wants to create work where the viewer wouldn’t walk away; rather giggle nervously, get pulled into history, into fiction, into something totally demeaning and possibly very beautiful.

Born on 26 November, 1969; Kara Walker is one of the most complex and prolific American artists of her generation. She has gained recognition for her intricate cut-paper silhouettes depicting instances sexuality, violence, and slavery. This American installation artist has also used drawing, painting, shadow puppetry, film, and sculpture to expose the ongoing psychological injury caused by the stereotypes of power, race, and gender relations. Her work leads viewers to a critical understanding of the gruesome reality of the past while also proposing an examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.

You might also like to read: Artist Kari Bienert: Painting The World With Colour-Infused Energy Patterns.


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