National Museum of Women in the Arts
Kara Walker
November 26 1969 - present
Photograph of Kara Walker, by Klaus Burgel, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY, USA
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
KAIR-ah WAH-kerr
Minority status:
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Drawings and prints, Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Painting, Installation Art
Artistic Role(s):
Book Artist, Collagist, Installation Artist, Lithographer, Multimedia Artist, Oil Painter, Painter, Printmaker, Silhouette Artist, Video Artist, Watercolorist
Artist's Biography:
Most well-known for her life-size black cut-paper silhouettes, artist Kara Walker is among the most prominent and controversial African-American contemporary artists. Despite having only entered the international art scene in the mid-1990s, Walker’s dreamlike antebellum scenes of degradation, sex, and violence have attracted both acclaim and outrage from an international audience.

The artist transforms the traditionally proper Victorian medium of the silhouette into a narrative device for displaying the slavery taboo and its continuing legacy in American society. Combining historical realism with fiction and fantasy, Walker’s provocative characters fornicate and inflict violence on one another in stark black-and-white outlines. While the older generation accuses her of creating negative, derogatory images of black people, some young artists believe that Walker defies stereotypes and challenges the viewer to confront the nature of racism. Whether using oil paints, collage, watercolors, prints, drawings, or projected installations, Walker’s work conveys powerful messages about the complexity of society through strikingly minimal means.

A graduate of the Atlanta College of Art and the Rhode Island School of Design, Walker was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award in 1997 and was the United States representative in the São Paulo Biennial in 2002. Walker currently lives and works in New York.

Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, USA (1992-1994) Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA (1989-1991)
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Larry Aldrich Award, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT, USA (2005) United States Representative, São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, Brazil (2002) Fellowship, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, IL, USA (1997)
Earliest exhibition:
Black Men: Image/Reality, New Visions Gallery, Atlanta, GA, USA (1991)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Book as Art XII: Artists' Books from the Permanent Collection
Book As Art X
The Book as Art: Twenty Years of Artists' Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts
Artist retrospective(s):
Narratives of a Negress, Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA (2003)