Works On Paper
Ink, gesso and graphite on paper
United States
Sheet (irregular): 83 1/8 × 72 1/8 in. (211.14 × 183.2 cm)
Framed: 86 1/2 × 76 in. (219.71 × 193.04 cm)
Not on view

“I’m not really about blackness, per se, but about blackness and whiteness, and what they mean and how they interact with one another and what power is all about.” —Kara Walker

Walker is known for large-scale installations of black cut-paper silhouettes that explore America’s racial and gender tensions. She draws inspiration for her visual storytelling from Southern romance novels, historical fiction, slave narratives, and contemporary literary fiction. She sets her scenes in the pre-Civil War South, although her narratives freely mix fact, fiction, and fantasy.

This large ink-wash drawing has the bold simplicity of Walker’s cut-paper work. A young woman appears caught in the act of smothering a sleeping man in his four-poster bed. Though the precise nature of the act and the race of the woman are uncertain, the artist says she imagined a mercy killing that is met equally with surprise and tacit approval, and casts the protagonist (house slave? daughter? both?) as hero and villain at the same time.

Funds contributed by Pam and Bill Royall Jr., Mary and Don Shockey Jr., Marion Boulton Stroud, and Sydney and Francis Lewis Endowment Fund
© Kara Walker

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.