Kara Walker is Tired of Being The Art World’s Token Black Girl

A giant sculpture of a nude black woman. The sculpture was created by Kara Walker and is titled, “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby?”

“A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby?” by Kara Walker. Photo courtesy of gigi_nyc at Flickr Creative Commons.

Artist Kara Walker is tired of being put up on a pedestal. As a successful African-American female artist, she’s often seen as a symbol of diversity. But she’s fed up with that role, especially since she never asked for it in the first place.

Walker recently took to Instagram to voice her opinion in the form of a controversial artist’s statement. Here’s what she wrote:

“I don’t really feel the need to write a statement about a painting show. I know what you all expect from me and I have complied up to a point. But frankly I am tired, tired of standing up, being counted, tired of ‘having a voice’ or worse ‘being a role model.’ Tired, true, of being a featured member of my racial group and/or my gender niche. It’s too much, and I write this knowing full well that my right, my capacity to live in this Godforsaken country as a (proudly) raced and (urgently) gendered person is under threat by random groups of white (male) supremacist goons who flaunt a kind of patched together notion of race purity with flags and torches and impressive displays of perpetrator-as-victim sociopathy. I roll my eyes, fold my arms and wait. How many ways can a person say racism is the real bread and butter of our American mythology, and in how many ways will the racists among our countrymen act out their Turner Diaries race war fantasy combination Nazi Germany and Antebellum South – states which, incidentally, lost the wars they started, and always will, precisely because there is no way those white racisms can survive the earth without the rest of us types upholding humanity’s best, keeping the motor running on civilization, being good, and preserving nature and all the stuff worth working and living for?”

Whoa, right? It’s a lot to take in. But the more one reads it, the more one comes to respect her brutally honest take on race, gender, and diversity in the broader socio-political context. Walker would rather people focus on her work than her own personal identity.

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