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Kara Walker Art Slavery

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Walker's work pokes holes in the romantic idea of the past—exposing the humiliating, desperate reality that was life for plantation slaves. She also incorporates ominous, sharp fragments of the South's landscape; such as Spanish moss trees and a giant moon obscured by dramatic clouds. These images surround the viewer and create a circular, claustrophobic space. This circular format paid homage to another art form, the 360-degree historical painting known as the cyclorama. Some of her images are grotesque, for example, in The Battle of Atlanta, a white man, presumably a Southern soldier, is raping a black girl while her brother watches in shock, a white child is about to insert his sword into a nearly-lynched black woman's vagina, and a male black slave rains tears all over an adolescent white boy. The use of physical stereotypes such as flatter profiles, bigger lips, straighter nose, and longer hair helps the viewer immediately distinguish the "negroes" from the "whities". It is blatantly clear in her artwork who is in power and who is the victim to the people with power. There is a hierarchy in America relating to race and gender with white males at the top and women of color (specifically black) at the bottom. Walker depicts the inequalities and mistreatment of African Americans by their white counterparts. Viewers at the Studio Museum in Harlem looked sickly, shocked, and some appalled upon seeing her exhibition. Thelma Golden, the museum's chief curator, said that "throughout her career, Walker has challenged and changed the way we look at and understand American history. Her work is provocative and emotionally wrenching, yet overwhelmingly beautiful and intellectually compelling. " Walker has said that her work addresses the way Americans look at racism with a "soft focus," avoiding "the confluence of disgust and desire and voluptuousness that are all wrapped up in . . . racism. "

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