Project 1: Research

Biography: Kara Walker is a history painter who resides in New York. She is most famous for her cut-paper silhouettes which have constant themes of African Americans, race, the Civil War, and suggestive images. Walker became famous after graduating Rhode Island School of Design and displaying her black silhouettes on a blank wall instantly catching people’s eyes at the Drawing Center in New York City. Because most of her pieces are silhouette based, her images tend to trick the eye and you are not exactly sure what you are seeing. Which creates an interesting narrative for viewers because everyone sees the artwork differently. Even though her images are from the earlier days of slavery and the late 1800’s, she wants to expose modern racism in a playful yet disturbing way of story telling. By having her scenes in a panoramic view, it helps to express the different aspects of race she is trying to portray and it puts it right in front of the viewers faces.

  • Main Work Style: Black & White silhouettes

She is making these black and white silhouettes that remind me of playful, child-like storytelling but, it is changed into this violent, sexual, racy imagery.

Seems to mainly focus on art dealing with history

  • Themes: African American’s, Race, Sex, Civil War, and Suggestive material

Goes back to slavery and civil war times

Mixes civil war, medieval times, and modern times together

From my research I found out the silhouettes were popular in the 1700’s into the late 1800’s in America.

Which was also a time period where the slave trade was at an all time high in America.

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So I am assuming this is a big reason why Kara Walker has used the cut outs other than she is referring to African American’s as the black silhouettes.

She makes African Americans seem scary and look like animals/monster. So this is how she wants people to see how African American’s are perceived. This must have to do with a stereotype she believes is prominent in society:

Sometimes uses projections as a background to go with the black and white silhouette people. They are very subtle so she obviously wants the main focus to be the silhouettes themselves:


  • Important Art: Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as if Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of a Negress and Her Heart (1994) 
  • Kara Walker Famous Works Explained
    • She displayed this work after graduating from Rhode Island School of Design at the Drawing Center in SoHo in ’94
    • Most of her art pieces have long titles
    • The titles have references from multiple sources having to do with the time period (In this title there are references from Gone with the Wind, and The Clansman (a Ku Klux Klan Text).
    • In this particular work she is walking the viewer through a story from left to right. Starting off with young love and ending with tragedy and sexual imagery. In my project I think it is important to capture this “story-telling” theme she has going on. Its like a grown up story book.


Her work is also looked at differently by viewers because with her silhouettes you do not what is actually there. Just like the photo above and these sexual-looking images:

However, once I thought about it, it looks very sexual yet some of the shapes could be behind the person. Like the image on the right, looks like a little boy is getting sexual assaulted yet, it could be a boy eating a banana.

Typography she has used:


I noticed a lot of her fonts are very ornamental and stylized. That is something I would like to capture and I discuss in my presentation linked down below. She really likes to express her work with type and a lot of it is either bold or all uppercase.


Color Scheme:

Kara uses minimal amounts of color in her artwork  because she really wants the main focus to be on the silhouettes. But, sometimes a splash of blue or pastel colors will be added. Mainly while searching her I noticed either white canvases or a tint of blue in the art like these:

This gave me the idea of incorporating blue into my color scheme for the project. I decided to do a little research into the time period of when Walker’s work is in, the Civil War. I found that the Union established the United States Colored Troops which were former slaves. So, that is going with two themes of Kara Walker’s work (slavery and the Civil War).

More about the United States Colored Troops

I found also that Union troops wore blue outfits:

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Here is a link to my powerpoint discussing multiple themes in Kara Walker’s work as well as my mood board displaying the colors choices and typography I will be using in the project:



These are some designs that sparked my interest into how would I approach type, type placement, and possible ideas for the banner, brochure and invite. I really like the brochure on the bottom because I feel it fits Kara Walker’s style. The first image may be too hard to accomplish because of the many cut outs and, it would be too delicate for someone to not rip.

How to get people to become of member?

I want to convince people to become a member at the MoMA and not just state “become a member now”. So I found on the MoMA site and found these two images. The first one can make a viewer feel like they want to “belong” to something. Also, a perk that could be listed in my designs is that the members get early access the the museum and exhibitions.