After the Whitney

What am I to say? Hours spent surrounded by Kara Walker’s sharp, painful, beautiful, horrific, powerful work. Some of her images are hard to look at and hard to look away from — so ugly, so real, so seductive and deceptive. So much expressed in paper cut-outs. She’s really quite incredible.

There was a large crowd today — because it’s the last day? I hope not. I hope it’s been full like this every weekend if not every day. More and more and more people need to be looking at those images. There were a lot of black people, which pleased me … though I am greedy and wanted there to be more. Now granted, the fact that there wasn’t a huge crowd of black people could have been because everyone came early in the show’s run and I’m just late on the tip. And there are the people who didn’t know the show was on or hadn’t heard what it was about, or whatever. All of that’s possible, of course. I worry only because I listened to the handy audio commentary and learned that when Walker won the MacArthur a group of black women artists protested the award and called for a boycott of the work!

I get that, but I also don’t get that. I know what she’s showing is painful, that it calls up many kinds of shame and anger, but that doesn’t make it any less real, shouldn’t mean that it cannot be expressed. I know, I know, the whole ‘don’t air our dirty laundry in front of the white people’ thing. I know that. But I’d certainly rather see this type of airing than the kind I can see on The Flavor of Love. I guess I expect a little more solidarity, a little more sisterhood. Something. Here’s this amazing, luminous talent … and she’s a young black woman … and she’s been awarded the genius grant … and you’re going to get up and say we should boycott her? Are you afraid people are going to see things they don’t already know? Trust me: they know. They know, and they choose to push it aside. Walker’s work can’t be so easily ignored. They need to have her work shoved in their faces so they are forced to see where they fit into the picture, how they pertpetuate those images day after day after day.

Ok, I’ll take a breath.

I’m feeling a little guilty about Dianne. I always forget that I’m a lousy museum partner. If I don’t like what I’m seeing, I won’t give it my time. I’ll be tapping my foot, wondering how quickly we’ll be on our way. If I love what I’m seeing — the case today — I sink as deep into it as I possibly can. Makes me awful company because I don’t (can’t) discuss it whilte I’m standing in front of it. Can’t. Not until I’ve had a chance to pull myself back, force some perspective. And with a show such as this one, I may need a few days to process before I can share much of anything.

Left the museum and walked over to Central Park so I could walk through the west side and get the train home. The weather was lovely today and everyone was taking advantage. I have to say Vaux and Olmstead knew what they were doing. I love Central Park. I’ll admit that I think Prospect Park is even more fabulous, but I really love Central Park. I took a bunch of photographs, which pleased me, but I didn’t get to wander around with my camera the way I’d hoped because I was pretty quickly latched onto by a fairly seedy guy. Leaving the park was the easiest way to get rid of him, so that’s what I did.

So glad I saw this show. The work was disturbing and upsetting, but so incredible. Really leaves me with so much to think about, so many things to examine and re-evaluate. Thank you, Kara Walker.


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