Seascape with the silhouette of two large hands emerging from the water, holding a five-sailed ship. The silhouette of a nude woman is visible in the water, facing down and seeming to swim to the right. On the left, two smaller silhouettes stand, facing each other, as a wave breaks on the shore to their immediate right. Stylized clouds/smoke rise up through the sky in the center.
Speak to Me of Rivers: An Exploration of Race, Identity, and Lived Experience in African American Culture; February 12 - March 3, 2019:
“My work runs the gamut of types of representation of, sort of, this idea of Blackness . . . you know as it encounters the West, as it encounters the civilized, and you know the ideas of the savage, of the servant sort of run through my work . . . and ideas about liberation and freedom come along and sort of, counteract that.” — Kara Walker
Label text (excert) from graduate curated exhibition: "We Gotta Get Out of This Place - Transportive Art" March 24 - May 1 and September 30 - December 11, 2022; Tirzah Frank (MA 2022) and Cecily Hughes (MA 2022)
Kara Walker’s silhouettes borrow from the history of slavery and racism, often using racist tropes and stereotypes that force viewers to confront their own biases as they consider her work. No world is no exception, evoking the Middle Passage, slavery, and colonialism–and the uncanny proximity of history in contemporary experience. Here the silhouettes are joined by fantastical elements as huge hands lift the ship above the water and a large, female figure floats beneath it, facing away. The hands could be rescuers, lifting the ship out of its journey toward enslavement and taking it somewhere better. Or, perhaps the hands represent the very human forces that sent ships across the Atlantic, carrying people away from freedom in the name of profit.
African American; diaspora; migrations; slavery; boats
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