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Starting OutKara Walker
In this episode of Art21 Exclusive, Kara Walker reflects on her early success and offers advice to the next generation of artists. Walker received widespread attention after being included in a group exhibition at The Drawing Center in New York City in 1994, not long after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. Walker remained in Providence until she “felt ready” to make the move to New York.
However, “When I came to the city,” she says, “I felt like my newly forming ego and sense of self was just torn to shreds.” Now a professor in Columbia University’s MFA program, Walker sees the many challenges that young artists face today and encourages them to take responsibility for changing negative conditions in the art world.
Walker is shown in New York City installing cut paper silhouettes and framed paintings at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in 2013 and visiting the gallery’s booth at the 2014 Frieze Art Fair, where she is accompanied by her mother.More information and credits
Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interviewer: Ian Forster. Camera: Ian Forster, Nick Ravich, Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Sound: Ava Wiland. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Kara Walker & Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Additional Photography Courtesy: Andrea Guermani & Kara Walker. Special Thanks: Scott Briscoe, Cindy Daignault & Frieze Art Fair. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
Art21 Exclusive is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.
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Kara Walker explores the raw intersection of race, gender, and sexuality in her work, crafting vivid psychological narratives from a contemporary perspective on historical conditions. Over the past two decades, Walker has unleashed the traditionally Victorian medium of the silhouette onto the walls of the gallery, creating immersive installations that envelop the viewer. Walker’s multi-media work—which includes drawing, watercolor, video, and sculpture—often reconsider grotesque caricatures, probing their persistence in popular culture and reclaiming their subjugating power to alternative ends.
“There’s no diploma in the world that declares you as an artist. You can declare yourself an artist and then figure out how to be an artist.”