Artinfo’s 21 Questions for Artist Kara Walker

A detail from Kara Walker's "Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale", 2011


Name: Kara Elizabeth Walker
Age: 41
Occupation: Artist

City/Neighborhood: Wallabout, Brooklyn (soon)

Kara Walker Portrait by Chuck Close

What project are you working on now? Just finished a bunch of drawings and a video, and I have two shows opening this month.

What’s the last show that you saw? David Altmejd and Erik Wysocan (in the Project Room) at Andrea Rosen

What’s the last show that surprised you? Well, this is hard to say. The last time I got goosebumps at a big spectacle of a show was the Costume Institute’s “American Woman” show at the Met.

Why? It was so well done and populist in a way that many art shows are not.

What’s your favorite place to see art? Really nice to see people living with art in their homes, particularly when they have amazing passion and room enough to see and experience it.

Do you make a living off your art? Yes

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio? A large, forgiving flat surface and plenty of Olfa blades

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days? Archived editions of the Atlanta Constitution and documents from the National Archives

Do you collect anything? Not really, I have some art, but not a big collection of any one thing.

What’s the last artwork you purchased? I think it was a photograph by Deana Lawson called “Venus Dancer.”

What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery? About 25 totally cool black teens mixed in the crowd at Marina Abramovic’s show at MoMA. I foolishly thought that them being there meant her work had relevance to this kind of hip-hop generation. Later, of course, I discovered they were all together, part of a group visiting from Barbados. What’s worse, I had already told them I was “too busy” to meet that weekend, yet there we all were.

Still from "Fall Frum Grace" - 2011

What’s your art-world pet peeve? Bloggers on the make at art openings; being the only black woman in the room at an opening of a non-black artist.

What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant? I don’t really have a regular place. I like Peasant downtown or 5 Ninth — cozy dark places.

Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine? Erratic, forgetful — I tend to not like to go out now on Saturdays like I used to because there are so many people I either know or who recognize me from somewhere. It’s embarrassing and I can’t enjoy the work privately.

What’s the last great book you read? Great book? Well, what about the last mediocre book? Most of what I have picked up lately has been so so or I haven’t finished…. I recently reread “Huckleberry Finn.” That’s a Great book. “The Innocents Abroad” is another, same author.

What work of art do you wish you owned? “The Gulf Stream” by Winslow Homer

What would you do to get it? I have been close to it — I curated a show at the Met. I would curate another….

Your Sikkema Jenkins show was “submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker.” What is your doctorate in and where did you get it? My doctorate is in “Honorary” — I have two honors, one from my alma mater RISD and another from CCA in San Francisco. When I am working on work I usually change my “title” to reflect changes in my life (from Negress of Noteworthy Talent, to Missus K.E.B, to Madam, etc., now Dr.). Laugh, it is funny.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about? The Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, MD

Who’s your favorite living artist? That’s too hard to answer. Keep losing so many favorites….

What are your hobbies? Goofing off with an electric guitar, and dancing

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