Scenes for a New Heritage

Kara Walker. Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b'tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. 1994

Paper, Overall 13 x 50' (396.2 x 1524 cm). Gift of The Speyer Family Foundation in honor of Marie-Josée Kravis. © 2018 Kara Walker

KARA WALKER: My name is Kara Walker. This work is based on purposeful misreadings of historical texts like Gone With the Wind. I wanted to ensure that there would always be this like punch-in-the-gut feeling of culpability in white washing or wishing away the unseemly, icky part of the story, of any story. But specifically the story that I want to talk about always comes back to an American mythology that involves race, slavery—a sadomasochistic construct that underlies the American history narrative.

I started with the sweeping Gone With the Wind-like silhouette of soldier and maiden embracing or at least attempting to. And then from there things unravel pretty quickly into a place that maybe resembles my own slapstick sensibility. I was really trying to explore the problematics of making art as a young black woman, when constantly barraged and faced with a host of stereotypes about what it even means to be a young black woman.

I started cutting black paper and making these silhouettes. It's like the handprint that's very basic info and it's very honest. But at the same time it's not honest at all. I mean, it's a complete obliteration of the details of a scene, and relying on a generalization to get the point of an image across. I really liked that association there's a similarity between the silhouette and other types of stereotyping, racial stereotyping in particular.

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