Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

School of Art


Walker; Kara Elizabeth--Criticism and interpretation; African American women artists; Silhouettes; Installations (Art); Art; Modern--20th century--United States


Over the past five years, installation artist Kara Walker has taken the art world by storm. Her acceptance was acknowledged in 1997, when she was included in the Whitney Museum's Biennial Exhibition. That same year, she was awarded a Mac Arthur Award. Since then, she has enjoyed many solo shows around the world and the financial success few artists ever achieve in their lifetime, let alone in their early thirties. In great part, talent accounts for her success, yet the notoriety she achieves comes from the stormy controversy surrounding the subject matter of her work. This work considers the silhouette art of contemporary artist Kara Walker (b.1969). The interpretation of the artist's work herein employs an analysis of the conceptual basis of the artist's medium: the silhouette. This work also includes an analysis of content as it relates to modern popular culture. Furthermore, this work considers the various critical responses to Walker's work as they relate to the controversy over the use of stereotypes in fine art and culture. This thesis concludes that it is Walker's ambiguity that troubles those who apply a strict essentialist critique to her work. In the view of those who support the artist, Walker successfully uses that ambiguity in service of an oppositional stance.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [78]-86).


vii, 86 pages




Northern Illinois University

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