Cut Paper Art and Identity Exploration With Kara Walker

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An illustration of a thumbs upProlific artist and filmmaker Kara Walker’s fascination with artistic expression as a means of navigating her identity has roots in her early childhood. As the daughter of a painter, she credits her father with her early interest in drawing and painting which led to her later explorations of identity through of silhouettes, installation art, filmmaking and paper crafts.  Best known for her floor to ceiling tableaux made of cut paper silhouettes, Walker creates pieces that are equal parts beautifully powerful and exceptionally haunting.

I don’t remember when or where I first came across her work but I do remember the feelings it instantly evoked. When viewing Walker’s work, her craft and skill is brilliantly evident but her images and scenes are often unsettling or, at the very least, unpleasant to look at. Walker captures a historical and generational pain experienced by many Black community members in ways that often transfer to the viewer. Despite this, the stories she tells through her imageare captivating and you’ll find yourself looking long and hard at deeply thought-provoking work. To learn more about Walker’s journey through understanding what it means to her to be a Black woman in America, check out the resources below:  

Artist’s website

Artist’s bio from Walker Art Center

Kara Walker: Starting Out (video)

To learn how to make paper crafts inspired by the paper silhouettes walker has made take a look at our YouTube Channel @clpvideo and the Paper Cutting eBook suggested below 

Resources Available on Hoopla Digital:

Paper Cutting Book

There’s a renaissance underway in the art form of cut paper, with an explosion of raw talent and an abundance of amazing work produced in the medium in recent years. This gorgeous volume features work from 26 contemporary international artists who are creating images of astonishing intricacy, using little more than paper and blade. Featuring a host of new discoveries and including art by such stars as Nikki McClure, Rob Ryan, and Thomas Allen, Paper Cutting is sure to engage art buffs and indie crafters alike. An in-depth introduction by paper art expert Natalie Avella illuminates the rich history of the centuries-old form, and a whimsical preface by beloved artist Rob Ryan rounds out this delightful collection. 

“The Stories We Tell” Finding Your Roots – Season 3 Episode 1 

Discover the unsolved mysteries behind the family stories of political organizer Donna Brazile, actor Ty Burrell and artist Kara Walker as they learn how the legacy of slavery has shaped their identities.  

Kara Walker: After the Deluge

Since she first came to the attention of the art world nearly ten years ago, Kara Walker has become one of the most important artists of her generation. Championed by the art world for her fearless embrace of challenging subject matter, Walker has created a body of work that looks unflinchingly at racial inequality in the United States. Inspired by the tragedy that beset the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, Walker has created a volume exploring the interconnectedness of the subject of the sea, race, and poverty by juxtaposing examples of her work and historical works from the 19th century.

Kara Walker: Narratives of a Negress

Best known for her provocative black paper cutout silhouettes, Kara Walker confronts stereotypes, sex, violence and power relationships through Civil War-era parodies, narratives and a mastery of craft and installation. This book, which accompanies an exhibition organized by the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College and the Williams College Museum of Art, presents a comprehensive overview of Walker’s work, including her first cut-paper wall installation, Gone, an Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart (1994).

Kara Walker: Pictures From Another Time

Kara Walker takes a medium that was extremely fashionable in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as part of the neoclassical revival, when the silhouetted images on ancient Greek and Roman vases were emulated on such goods as Wedgwood ware. Pictures From Another Time is the first major publication on the work of this extraordinary artist. It includes nearly 70 examples of her work, including her silhouettes, prints, drawings, projected installations and watercolors. Texts include an interview with the artist by curator Thelma Golden, Deputy Director of Programs at The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race

Rebecca Peabody uses the work of contemporary American artist Kara Walker to investigate a range of popular storytelling traditions with roots in the 19th century and ramifications in the present. Focusing on a few key pieces that range from a wall-size installation to a reworked photocopy in an artist’s book, and from a theater curtain to a monumental sculpture, Peabody explores a significant yet neglected aspect of Walker’s production: her commitment to examining narrative depictions of race, gender, power and desire.

Seeing the Unspeakable: The Art of Kara Walker

Examining Walker’s striking silhouettes, evocative gouache drawings and dynamic prints, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw analyzes the inspiration for and reception of four of Walker’s pieces: The End of Uncle Tom and The Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven, John Brown, A Means to an End and Cut. She offers an overview of Walker’s life and career, and contextualizes her art within the history of African American visual culture and in relation to the work of contemporary artists including Faith Ringgold, Carrie Mae Weems and Michael Ray Charles.

Kara Walker

Kara Walker’s oeuvre of black cut-paper silhouette wallworks creates vivid and shocking evocations, rooted in the most egregious stereotypes, of an antebellum world that comments on the system of slavery and its continuing legacy in the American consciousness. This volume includes a selection of her silhouette works–on both black and grey walls, and with light projections–and drawings.