Kara Walker has gained national and international recognition for her room-size tableaux depicting historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence, and subjugation through the genteel 18th-century art of cut-paper silhouettes. Set in the American South before the Civil War, Walker's compositions play off stereotypes to portray, often grotesquely, life on the plantation, where masters, mistresses, slaves, women, and children enact a subverted version of the past.

Over the years the artist has used drawing, painting, light projections, writing, shadow puppetry, and, most recently, film animation to narrate her tales of romance and oppression, power and liberation. These scenarios thwart conventional readings of a cohesive national history and expose the collective and ongoing psychological injury caused by the tragic legacy of slavery. Her work leads viewers through an aesthetic experience that evokes a critical and emotional understanding of the past and proposes an examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.

Walker's visual epics systematically and critically walk a line—the "color line," to quote W.E.B. Du Bois—that moves us from the antebellum South to an analysis of many of the prevailing economic, social, and individual power structures still in place today. Deploying an acidic sense of humor, she examines the dialectic of pleasure and danger, guilt and fulfillment, desire and fear, race and class. "The black subject in the present tense is the container for specific pathologies from the past," says the artist, "and it is continuously growing and feeding off those maladies."

has gained national and international recognition for her room-size tableaux depicting historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence, and subjugation through the genteel 18th-century art of cut-paper silhouettes. Set in the American South before the Civil War, Walker's compositions play off stereotypes to portray, often grotesquely, life on the plantation, where masters, mistresses, slaves, women, and children enact a subverted version of the past.

Over the years the artist has used drawing, painting, light projections, writing, shadow puppetry, and, most recently, film animation to narrate her tales of romance and oppression, power and liberation. These scenarios thwart conventional readings of a cohesive national history and expose the collective and ongoing psychological injury caused by the tragic legacy of slavery. Her work leads viewers through an aesthetic experience that evokes a critical and emotional understanding of the past and proposes an examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.

Walker's visual epics systematically and critically walk a line—the "color line," to quote W.E.B. Du Bois—that moves us from the antebellum South to an analysis of many of the prevailing economic, social, and individual power structures still in place today. Deploying an acidic sense of humor, she examines the dialectic of pleasure and danger, guilt and fulfillment, desire and fear, race and class. "The black subject in the present tense is the container for specific pathologies from the past," says the artist, "and it is continuously growing and feeding off those maladies."

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