Artworks
Insurrection! (Our Tools Were Rudimentary, Yet We Pressed On)
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jtucker's picture

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Who doesn’t love a good underdog story?

That perfect combination of justice and hard work finally paying off can leave even the most cynical of folk with that warm fuzzy feeling inside. That is, unless you're on the losing end of a Kara Walker piece.

While historically the white man has always had the upper hand, it is inevitable that the tables will occasionally turn. Sweet sweet revenge, that’s what it's all about. In this piece, Walker has depicted a white plantation owner’s worst nightmare…a slave revolt. One woman runs free with a noose still wrapped around her neck, another pulls the head off of her owner, and a third is busy disemboweling another man with a kitchen ladle. And I thought Wendy’s was bad for serving fingers in their chili…

Motivated not only by the despondent treatment of her people, Walker took inspiration for this piece from the work of Thomas Eakins. In the late 1880’s Eakins created a gruesome series of paintings of surgeons slicing open cadavers while transfixed audiences marvel in the background. Voyeuristic and grisly, I think we can all take solace in the fact that modern medicine has come a long way.

It is easy to look at images of torture and allow our refined sensibilities to assure ourselves that we personally would never commit such atrocities. Well, Walker is not going to let you get off that easy. Over her silhouettes she has projected the colorful background image. As beautiful as it is, Walker has actually utilized the projected image so that when the viewer approaches the work, their shadow becomes transfixed in the scene. You become part of the revolt, leaving us all to wonder, what side are you on?