in Interviews | 01 APR 06
Featured in
Issue 98

Kara Walker

Kara Walker’s film 8 Possible Beginnings, or the Creation of African-America; a Moving Picture by the Young, Self-Taught, Genius of the South, K.E. Walker (2005) was screened at Sikkema, Jenkins & Co., New York in March. Her exhibition ‘After the Deluge’ is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York until 25 June. She lives and works in New York.

in Interviews | 01 APR 06

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

A box of Laura Lynn brand ‘Georgia Crackers’ with a picture of a Valdosta, Georgia plantation on the back, complete with Spanish moss-drenched live oaks (and delicious Georgia Cracker snack ideas); a poster of a Pieter Breugel painting, The Netherlandish Proverbs (1559); Greek Chocolate candy and candy display with choco-baby mascot; drawings by my daughter; Porgy and Bess and Ink Spots record sets; and a very funny inkjet print of an illustration of a Christian black family overlaid with a second print of a Black Panther party militant colouring book.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

Art has always mattered to some degree, because I grew up around artists and art students so it is tough to determine when I first felt really close to one piece. But I think I had a late awakening when I visited a show of 20th-century German art at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta around 1987 and saw a painting by Christian Schad, one of the German Neue Sachlichkeit painters – Agosta, the Winged Man and Rasha, the Black Dove (1929). It is a slightly surreal portrait of a deformed white man and a beautiful black woman – lovers. Some kind of equation was being made that my adolescent mind was flummoxed by. The whole show was so turgid and big – it made quite an impact.

What do you like the look of?

16mm black and white film.

What is your favourite title of an art work?

Two Competing Suns and the Imposter by me – really, it’s pathetic, but this is about the only place I lose my allegedly humble and demure packaging; I like my titles. I also like The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableaux of Eva in Heaven. I get really giddy by the time ‘and the’ comes along. It cracks me up.

What film has most influenced you?

Gone with the Wind (1939).

If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?

The Battle of Atlanta (1886), a cyclorama created by William Wehler’s American Panorama Company studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is the largest painting in the world.

What do you wish you knew?

I would like to study comparative mythology and catch up on world literature.

What should change?

The question is what can change. I wish the impetus to commit suicide bombings would disappear.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?
Dinner dates with lots of friends and not getting bogged down by self-reflexive issues.

What music are you listening to?

Right now, construction noise outside. I like Fiona Apple’s new release Extraordinary Machine. Otherwise my iPod has a heavy rotation of soul/R&B and Brazilian music.

What are you reading?

The Known World (2003) by Edward P. Jones, which I don’t seem to have the patience to finish, but it is slow and drawling and rich.

What is art for?

Figuring it out.

What were you doing before you responded to this questionnaire?

Showing my mom how to use the subway, exchanging a half size violin for a three-quarter one, rushing to the studio, checking emails. Not getting any work done.