On the right, a silhouette of a man or boy walking to the right and reaching out in front of him with his right hand, his left holding an empty cotton bag that trails behind him. In the lower left corner, there is a silhouette of a dismembered human arm. The silhouettes are printed over a scene showing columns of soldiers on foot, a few on horses, and army equipment in an open field next to a row of large trees, through which a boat can be seen.
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)
diaspora; slavery; African American
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