Each of the prints in Kara Walker's portfolio of works created at the Leroy Neiman Center for Print Studies at Columbia University began with an enlargement, using offset lithography, of a woodcut plate from Ed. Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden's Harper's "Pictorial History of the Civil War", which was first published in Chicago in 1866. Each of these images was then overlaid with Walker's silhouette figures rendered with solid black silkscreen. This print series marks the first time Walker has united her trademark silhouettes with the species of historical documentation that influenced the development of her aesthetics. "These prints," Walker explains, "are the landscapes that I imagine exist in the back of my somewhat more austere wall pieces." Walker uses a variety of strategies to break in, cover over, or otherwise intervene within the narrative of the woodcuts, usurping the images' original dramatic purposes in favor of ones of her own invention. Walker's silhouettes interrupt Union maneuvers as often as Confederate ones, as if no matter which side wins, there will be suffering.
For more than a decade, Walker's darkly subversive satire has addressed racial myths, slavery, gender politics, the sexuality of oppression/domination, and questions of personal versus historical autobiography. Walker is well known for her technique of appropriating the 18th and 19th century figural format of the cut-paper silhouette, creating raucous cutout processionals. Her interweaving of Southern antebellum nostalgia, Civil War iconography, and black racist stereotypes foregrounds the pervasive influence of Southern racial history, and the history of black representation, upon contemporary America.
Born in 1969 in Stockton, California, Walker later moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she lived until completing her BFA at the Atlanta College of Art in 1994. Walker went on to earn her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad, notable solo venues; the Walker Art Center, MN (2007-2008) which will travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY and the Hammer, LA, CA; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY and the Tate Liverpool. She has been awarded Deutsche Bank Prize and the prestigious MacArthur Award. Work in public collections includes; the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Walker Art Center, among others. Walker currently teaches at Columbia University and lives and works in New York.