A body of work that you cannot look away from, makes you stop and think, and makes you uncomfortable is powerful. Over the long weekend, I was finally able to checkout the Walker Art Center where I found myself intrigued by Kara Walker’s work. I was feeling a bit underwhelmed by a majority of the work, quickly making my way through the museum. But when I found Walker’s piece, Endless Conundrum: An African Anonymous Adventuress, I took time to sit with each piece.
At first glance, her black cut-out silhouettes look like simple figures. Then, you get up close. The amount of detail she puts into each silhouette embodies the 18th century technique beautifully. With each of her collages, Walker creates a crucial dialogue around/about issues of slavery, conflict, and violence. Her work is not for the faint of heart.
“I didn’t want a completely passive viewer. I wanted to make work where the viewer wouldn’t walk away; he would either giggle nervously, get pulled into history, into fiction, into something totally demeaning and possibly very beautiful.”
After viewing her work, I want to know who Kara Walker is. I want to learn more about our history as African Americans in this country. I want to become well-versed in the gruesome reality of events. I want to get inside her head and see where these ideas stem from. I am drawn to work that has a strong message and engages the viewer to open their perspective. Walker has made my mind wonder and think about these difficult scenes embedded in her work. Why do we not face these issues head on? Why are we afraid to unpack this idea of race? Why has it made our world divided?
“I think really the whole problem with racism and its continuing legacy in this country is that we simply love it. Who would we be without the ‘struggle?’”