Art & the Artist Style & Fashion

Artist Kara Walker and Her Cut-Paper Silhouette Art

Poetic and evocative, artist Kara Walker’s life-size silhouettes tell a story that feels both historical and boldly contemporary while addressing some larger-than-life issues

Taking inspiration from the “hiccups and inconsistencies of narrative,” particularly when it comes to issues of race, power, gender, and sex, Kara Walker’s room-filling, life-size cut-paper silhouettes – reminiscent of Victorian shadow puppets but with a much darker edge – and large-scale drawings have earned her critical acclaim and exhibitions as far afield as Taipei and Tokyo, as well as a New Yorker cover.

Kara Walker’s room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes explore themes of race, power, gender and sex. Photograph: Andrea Guermani. Banner image: Orcutt Photo

Photograph: Cameron Wittig

Photograph: Ellie Bronson

The California-born (1969) artist has also attracted column inches for her appearance, recently ranking among Vanity Fair’s Top 10 Best-Dressed Female Artists. Alongside Cindy Sherman, Walker was the only other female name-checked in that magazine’s 2013 story on today’s greatest living artists.

Walker is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius grant” scholarship, and was at the time the youngest person (aged 27) to receive it.