Artist
Kara Walker
African American artist

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Kara Walker
African American artist
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Birth Date

November 26, 1969

jtucker's picture

Contributor

Kara Walker is used to taking a lot of crap.

Lets face it, if you are going to ruffle feathers, you have to be prepared for the blowback. Needless to say, the world’s perception of Kara Walker couldn’t be more split. Some revere her relentless tenacity to show the world her cultural past, while others seriously hate her for capitalizing on it. Kara Walker is the perfect example of the sad truth that no matter what you do in life, haters will follow.

Let's start by looking at Kara’s fans, of which there are many. She was recently listed among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Not bad for a woman who has made a career for herself by producing painfully vulgar images. Additionally, at age 27, she became the second youngest recipient for the MacArthur Genius Grant. Making $625,000 at 27 is not too shabby. Who said you can’t make money as an artist?

But perhaps that’s the problem. While Walker has been welcomed into the upper echelon of the art world, many of her fellow black artists have rejected her work fervently. Many feel she is capitalizing on black slavery to turn a buck and make a name for herself. Artist Betye Saar even emailed hundreds of artists and went on record asking other to protest Kara’s work. Perhaps all press is not good press.

Understandably, sometimes her work can be a hard pill to swallow. She focuses on all those hot button issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and violence. White men raping black children and men inserting swords into lynched women’s vaginas are just two of the countless horrifying images Walker has produced. Some artists make work just for the shock value, but not Kara. She is a woman on a mission to tell the world of her cultural past, and of the real, violent history of our "great" nation. 

And while some think she is just in it for the Benjamins, Walker tells a different story. Walker always knew she was going to be an artist. Unlike most of us who search our whole life for direction and end up settling for a sports car as the result of a mid life crisis, Walker always knew where she was going. She would watch her father draw, and at the whopping age of two and a half, she knew there was only one path for her. I would venture to guess though, that as a toddler she had no idea she would become famous for images of rape and oppression. At least we hope not…

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Kara Walker

Kara Elizabeth Walker (born November 26, 1969) is an American contemporary painter, silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, and film-maker who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes. Walker lives in New York City and has taught extensively at Columbia University. She is serving a five-year term as Tepper Chair in Visual Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. She was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2018.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Kara Walker.