Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kara Walker - Feminist Artist

Kara Walker is an artist who uses a victorian style of silhouettes cut from black paper and pasted onto the walls of the gallery. She "uses over head projectors to throw coloured light onto the ceiling, walls, and floor of the exhibition space. When the view walks into the installation, his or her body casts a shadow onto the walls where it mingles with Walker's black-paper figures and landscapes. With one foot in the historical realism of slavery and the other in the fantastical space of the romance novel, Walker's nightmarish fictions simultaneously seduce and implicate the audience."

Walker, like Cindy Sherman, uses stereotypes in her work. She will use the stereotypes of black people, women mostly, to get her message through. You can see in the picture on the right, Do You Like Cream in your Coffee and
Chocolate in your Milk? (1997), the use of stereotype. There's the dancing slave with a coconut bra and a leopard skin toga. Today we see this as a shocking image because we feel, as Americans, this is an ignorant image of the past, not today. And, as we all know, racism is still quite alive today, and I think that's what Walker is trying to say with her wor
k. We see these stereotyped images that she produces and we think we're past that sort of idea of inequality. But in reality, we're really not. People are still racist and why not put that racism in their faces to make them see that.
Also, look at the woman's face and her body stance. She's obviously not happy. She has a collar and chains around her neck. I see this as a comment on racism as well. Black pe
ople may not look like this today, but they still feel that way. They feel like they have a collar and chains around their neck because they're still, unfortunately, seen as unequal to white
Another interesting point I noticed about this piece is that the woman's skin isn't even coloured, but yet you know she's black. The stereotyped features and her clothing immediately clue you in on the fact.

"Blackness became a very loaded subject, a very loaded thing to be—all about forbidden passions and desires, and all about a history that’s still living, very present…the shame of the South and the shame of the South’s past; its legacy and its contemporary troubles."
- Kara Walker (Walker Art Center, NA)

The piece on the right is called Slavery! Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journey into Picturesque South Slavery of "Life at 'Ol' Virginny's Hole' (sketches from Plantation Life" See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker an Emancipated Negress and leader of her Cause (1997). Through this title,
I think you can see the humour that Walker manages to put into her work as we
ll. "The impulse to find these images funny comes from the deep sense of discomfort they cause. Walker’s amusements intersect with shame when one realizes one is laughing at suffering. In this way, Walker navigates the limits of humor and challenges the viewer’s sense of what is comical." (Walker Art Center, NA)

Also through this piece, you can see how Walker's art also tells a story. It's usually a story of slavery in some way. But, the plot line is never really clear. It's really up to the viewer to figure out what's going on, or even interpret the story their own way. Some scenes and images are easily recognizable, but some you have to look at for a while. I love her super simplified style that she uses. It's simply just black cut outs on a wall. The black of the paper is signific
ant here of course because of the issue with racism. But in all of this simplicity, there is the representation that those silhouettes stand for.

I think she fits in well with the other protest artists that I've covered because she is protesting racism in this country. She's showing us the stereotypes that have always been used and that were created by us. She's throwing them back into our faces and making people notice that this is still happening, whether we want to believe it or not. She's not only dealing with the stereotypes of black people, but also of women.
Out of all oppressed groups out there, I think that black women have it the worst. And they alw
ays have. She's fighting that stereotype by using it, just like Cindy Sherman does. I think her simplified style works wonderfully for what she's doing. I love how creative she gets with using it as well, with the colour filter projections on the wall and how the shadows of the viewer is not interacting with the scene on the wall. Maybe if the viewer feels as though they are a part of this world that they're looking at, maybe they'll think differently about what issues Walker is trying to hit on.

Art21. "Kara Walker: Biography." Art21. Art21, Inc, 2007. Web. 29 Apr 2010.

Walker Art Center . "The Art of Kara Walker: A Companion to the Exhibition." Walker Art Center. Walker Art Center, NA. Web. 29 Apr 2010.

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