Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), 2005
Set of 14 prints, Edition 26 of 35
Enlarging Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, first published in 1866, Walker overlaid each lithograph to reinterpret this famous document of American history. “These prints,” Walker explains, “are the landscapes that I imagine exist in the back of my somewhat more austere wall pieces.” Walker uses a variety of strategies to break in, cover over, or otherwise intervene within the narrative of the woodcuts, changing the images original dramatic purposes in favor of her own invention. Walker’s silhouettes interrupt Union maneuvers as often as Confederate ones, as if no matter which side wins, there will be suffering.
Since the 1990s, Walker has used the technique of cut-paper silhouettes placed on white backgrounds. Historically, this type of silhouette was used to decorate 18th and 19th century middle class homes. Walker appropriates the technique to stage scenes illustrating racial suppression while interweaving Civil War iconography and racist stereotypes. She highlights the similarities between the silhouette and the nature of African-American stereotypes, in which complex details of individuals are reduced or generalized into easily recognizable outlines.
Walker’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. She studied at the Atlanta College of Art and received her M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1997, she became the youngest person ever awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award.