Perverse Fascination: Medium, Identity, and Performativity in the Art of Kara Walker
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Kara Walker is one of the most successful and widely known contemporary African-American artists today--remarkable for her radical engagement with issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Walker is best known for her provocative installations, composed of cut-paper silhouettes depicting fantastic and grotesque scenes of the antebellum South. This thesis examines Walker's work in silhouettes, text, and video in order to establish the unifying logic that unites her media. Walker's use of racist stereotypes has incited vehement criticism, and the debate over the political meaning of her work has been worked and reworked in the voluminous literature on her artistic practice. This thesis focuses on how Walker's defense and explanation of her own work functions as a performative and political component of the art itself. Walker's construction and performance of an artistic identity is an integral and intentional part of her overall practice and a key component to the interpretation of her work.