Four silhouettes of detached body parts of a girl - a left hand and forearm in the margin above the rest of the image; a head with hair in short braids, each tied with a bow, with angular wound-like holes in the silhouette; and two disembodied breasts - printed over a landscape with a column of soldiers marching on foot, an officer sitting on a horse, and a cannon firing in the foreground. In the background is a narrow pass between two mountains with smoke rising up from it.
Contemporary artist Kara Walker’s work reminds us of the inherent subjectivity of historical perspective. This work is one of 15 prints belonging to Walker’s powerful series in which she enlarges selected images from two volumes of Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (1866–68) and then “annotates” them by superimposing her signature silhouettes, thereby disrupting the original narrative. Walker inserts issues of racial stereotypes, slavery, gender, and the violence of oppression otherwise absent in these mid-19th century representations.
-Ellen Alvord, Weatherbie Curator of Education and Academic Programs, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Sept. 2016)