Kara Walker

Miss Merrimac and the Monitor, 2001
Scherenschnitt-Installation und Projektion
Sammlung Deutsche Bank

Walker‘s nostalgic, apparently romantic silhouettes employ provocative and shocking details to tell of racism, suppression or sexual violence. Within a small space, people are injured, deformed, raped, strangled and shot – or they dance and copulate. The main protagonists are black women and children who suffer humiliation at the hands of whites playing the part of slave drivers, colonial masters or soldiers. Quite often, the victims also appear as perpetrators, caught up in an interplay of debasement and dominance that prevents the viewer from adopting a clear moral standpoint.
Miss Merrimac and the Monitor shows the bright-coloured, camouflage pattern silhouette of an oversized female figure creeping through grass, dressed in historical costume and carrying a sword. Two other abstract formations appear above her. Four miniature silhouettes made of black paper are integrated into the woman’s image: a young black man, a white man enthroned in an armchair in the authoritative manner of a colonial master, a female torch-bearer striding out ahead.
Stylistically, Walker echoes the historical medium of silhouette pictures. During the 18th century, when racial conflicts had reached their climax in the American Civil War, silhouette cutting was a white upper class pastime. They portrayed idyllic genre scenes, concealing and trivialising true conditions.

Kara Walker (born 1969) lives in New York.