Title

Kara Walker's (Re)Presentation of History in the Antebellum South

Document Type

Website

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Abstract

This project examines the beautiful and controversial artwork of Kara Walker. After close examination, we determined that the artist’s self perception and different power struggles with and relationships to race, emotion, sexuality, and history are all illustrated through the various silhouettes of Kara Walker's creation. In a historical context, Walker underlines the dark racist past of the United States through her storytelling. In many of her works, Walker recounts the maltreatment of African-Americans, including the brutal sexual and violent acts inflicted upon African-Americans by their Caucasian oppressors. Racial features and stereotypes are also heavily evident in her artwork. Even though her figures do not have faces, the races of individuals are evident through their stereotypical appearances: hair, facial structure, and fashion of the figures all play a part in the audiences' determination of race. The sexual actions that occur in her works are created to show the separation between slaves and masters and to also show the southern slaves' power for freedom, desire, and the urge to satisfy their thirst. The power struggles between the masters and their slaves are not solely saved for adults because the children in her work are involved in those actions as well.

Kara Walker's work evokes a reaction from the audience in two ways. Some believe that the works are crude and degrading, while others believe that they are attacking both the racist past of America and many of the racial stereotypes that were created in a time of ignorance that still persist today. Whether one believes that Kara Walker's work was made for shock value or for making an important statement, she continues pursuing her passion with integrity.