Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage
Through the South and
Reconfigured for the Benefit of
Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May
By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker,
January 12 – February 23, 1997
Picture and Text from The Renaissance Society, the University of Chicago.
Walker has an exhibit at the Whitney, in NYC, through Feb. 3. The art is often beautiful despite its exceptional portrayal of very ugly racist and sexist stereotypes. The picture above was intentionally chosen (at least in this context) to leave to readers the decision of whether to view some profoundly challenging work. Thus:
Walker’s work is often said to appropriate and subvert stereotypes, but that might be a little misleading. She herself at least at times takes her art to present stereotypes as they infect us all. She is quoted by Newsday as saying, “I want people to respond and to be aware that if a goody-two-shoes like me can have all of this going on her head, then nobody’s safe.”
She has been very controversial; though she has been awarded a McCarthur “genius” award, she was sharply criticized by some African Americans as promulgating negative stereotypes, perhaps even to get money from bigots. Her comments on presenting positive images of black people are again quoted by Newsday:
Walker, for her part, questioned the very notion of a positive black image: “Every image produced of ‘us’ is mediated – filtered through the grounds of years of misrepresentation, bitterness and suspicion,” she scrawled on one of the beautifully illustrated diary pages on display at the Whitney. She doesn’t think it’s possible to mold new, untainted forms. We can only deconstruct those that already exist and uncover their ongoing corruption.
She’s a feminist you might want to know more about.