The Artistry of Kara Walker

Kara Walker Silhouette

Kara Walker combines the art of silhouette cutting with a modern aesthetic that strikes deep at the collective heart of American history. Capitalizing on this antique technique she produces art pieces that provoke thoughtful discourse.

Silhouette cutting was once a common art, predating our thirst for photographic representations by the precise outlining of a profile. Some surviving works display delicate intuitive touches that reflect personality and caricature. They offer glimpses of people long-lost to our senses.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at cutting a silhouette, Snake Oil Productions is a good place to start.

Kara Walker’s compositions delve into subjects that discomfit most of the public. Her work concentrates on the intersection of imagery concerned with race and gender, sexuality and power. Each piece is a study in dichotomy, a contrast of conflicting perceptions and ideals, mixed into the fabric of complexity that is life. Her work strikes at core issues deeply imbedded in American history and cultural psyche. While not always easy to view, they are visually intense and raw.

There is an elegance of design and a striking simplicity to the high contrast of her art. The silhouette is a practice going back hundreds of years and her visceral depictions bring new resonance to the medium.

Her work appeared in the groundbreaking Art 21 series produced through Public Broadcasting. Here’s a great little video clip from an episode:

This tidbit demonstrates the different styles of work for which she’s become well-known. In some pieces modern technology is used to project shadows of silhouette cuts on a wall. The quality of the detail is amazing and the sense of movement echoes another time and place.

On Kara Walker’s professional website are splendid links to educational materials intended for use with her artwork, information about the themes in her work and her chosen medium, as well as a biography and interests related to her art.

Inspiration surrounds us…visit and explore Kara Walker’s amazing art.

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