Kara Walker and the Complexities of Race

Kara Walker, an African American artist, is well known throughout the art world mainly for her detailed cutout paper silhouettes, which adorn the walls of exhibition rooms. They focus on race, gender, and sexuality, but have also caused controversy among other artists for their depictions of stereotypes of black people. Yet her personal style comments upon complicated race relations and the struggle of acknowledging America’s dark history of slavery. She first came into the spotlight in 1994 with Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. Currently, she serves as a Visual Arts chair at Rutgers University and resides in Brooklyn.

This week, for my LHSP Race and Ethnicity class, I had the privilege of seeing two of the five pieces from her The Means to an End: A Shadow Drama in Five Acts series at the UMMA. Looking at it up close, we examined the intricate details that added to the characterization of the subjects, who were all depicted in silhouette profile. I had no idea that the UMMA housed these works, but was delighted to find that there is an abundance of famous and unique art. It was a great experience to actually witness Walker’s work in real life, as well as analyze it in a modern context–I had just learned about her other work in my Art and Design history class. I hope to return to the UMMA soon and continue learning about these amazing contemporary artists.

(Allentown Art Museum)


Student at the University of Michigan studying Art & Design and Communications, hoping to create meaningful design for social impact.

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