Artists to Know: Kara Walker

Happy 43rd Birthday, Kara Walker!

In a 2007 interviewKara Walker compared her signature use of black silhouettes to “cutting the shadows of the room out of paper.” “The silhouette says a lot with very little information,” Walker said, “but that’s also what the stereotype does. So I saw the silhouette and the stereotype as linked.” Walker’s racially charged silhouetted scenes depict the variously seamy, mythic, and brutal history of African Americans in the Antebellum South, and its lingering presence in U.S. race relations today. “Of course, while the stereotype, or the emblem, can communicate with a lot of people and a lot of people can understand it,” she went on, “the other side of this is that it reduces difference, reduces diversity to that stereotype.” In an SFMOMA interview above, Walker talks about the discomfort she faces when making her art, and the “uneasy relationship” she has with her own imagination. “The interesting thing for me in my work is how easy it is to commit atrocities...” she said. “If a girl like me can think this stuff, then what?”