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Scholars Day: April 15, 2009

The Lynched Woman: Kara Walker, Laura Nelson, and the Aesthetics of Violence

Using 19th century technology, artist Kara Walker pastes paper silhouettes on white backgrounds, creating scenes of sexual and racial violence that have attained iconic status in the art world. Before her fortieth birthday, she had attained all of the honors that the art community bestows, but controversy dogged her from critics who saw her as promoting degrading images of black women. This presentation examines Walker’s deployment of lynching imagery in her self-portrait "Cut" (1998), which bears a striking resemblance to the postcard image of the death of Laura Nelson at the hands of a lynch mob in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1911. Examining the controversy and debate surrounding Walker’s work – particularly her 1997 presentation at the Venice Biennale and her retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 2008 – the researcher considers the fraught relationship between representing violence and replicating its trauma, between observing spectacles of death and participating in the pleasure they held for perpetrators of violence.

Presenter: Jennie Lightweis-Goff (Faculty)
Topic: Women and Gender Studies
Location: 217 Hartwell
Time: 2:30 pm (Session IV)

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