The Kara Walker: Cut to the Quick exhibition, coming to the Cincinnati Art Museum November 5 through January 16, is a contemporary example of the relationship between art and language. “Spending time with Kara Walker’s work is a lot like spending time with poetry,” says guest curator and Nashville-based poet Ciona Rouse. “You have to ask questions of a poem and allow it to ask questions of you, as well. You must enter a poem again, and enter it in a new way. Allow it to say something different to you. Lean into a specific line or pay attention to line breaks and repetition in order to arrive at meaning or—preferably—the next question that might emerge. Kara Walker’s work demands that same process of inquiry and patience; it hopefully leaves you with more questions than answers.”
Walker’s work tells and revises stories of violence, racism, sexism, and imperialism reflecting American history and culture. Powerful color choices of black, white, and gray both make a statement and incite emotions in the form of cut-paper silhouettes, which are what Walker is most known for, but she doesn’t limit her media choices. Walker also creates using film, drawings, paintings, sculpture, and print-making and is influenced by historical reference. From mythology to fantasy, her inspiration is drawn from her study of colonial portraiture, animated films, and the popular 19th century craft of cut-paper silhouette portraiture. In lieu of a chronological time capsule of her work, the exhibition is set up to tell stories regardless of the medium choice.
There are two spaces featured in the exhibition that provide space for contemplation and active engagement. The Active Space features a series of writing prompts. One is intended to be shared publicly and the other is a personal reflection that can be shared in confidence. Rouse wrote a few poems that appear throughout the exhibition and encourages visitors to pen their own. “Walker herself has collaborated with musicians, filmmakers, [and] authors, so it all feels appropriate to see how art begets more art,” says Rouse. “We planned poetry classes for later in the run of the exhibition. We hope to highlight many ways that art—language and visual arts—speak to one another as we bring Walker’s work to Cincinnati.”
Visit the exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum and stay tuned for special events
Purchase tickets to the exhibition. Tickets are $12 for general admission, with discounted rates for students, children, and seniors. Admission is free for members.
On November 4, an event called Say it Aloud: An Evening of Poetry and the Spoken Word feature’s Cincinnati poet and storyteller Annie Ruth, and a group of poets from Elementz—Kimberly DuWaup Bolden, Camille Jones, and Kaylaa Betts. In addition to the poetry classes, the museum will also host conversations around films inspiring and inspired by Walker’s work during the next few months.