In anticipation of the February 17 opening of the Walker-organized exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love (exhibition preview Feb. 16), here’s an excerpt from a Q&A frieze did with the artist. Read the entire interview here.
What images keep you company in the space where you work?
A box of Laura Lynn brand “Georgia Crackers” with a picture of a Valdosta, Georgia plantation on the back, complete with Spanish moss-drenched live oaks (and delicious Georgia Cracker snack ideas); a poster of a Pieter Breugel painting, The Netherlandish Proverbs (1559); Greek Chocolate candy and candy display with choco-baby mascot; drawings by my daughter; Porgy and Bess and Ink Spots record sets; and a very funny inkjet print of an illustration of a Christian black family overlaid with a second print of a Black Panther party militant colouring book.
What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
Art has always mattered to some degree, because I grew up around artists and art students so it is tough to determine when I first felt really close to one piece. But I think I had a late awakening when I visited a show of 20th-century German art at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta around 1987 and saw a painting by Christian Schad, one of the German Neue Sachlichkeit painters – Agosta, the Winged Man and Rasha, the Black Dove (1929). It is a slightly surreal portrait of a deformed white man and a beautiful black woman – lovers. Some kind of equation was being made that my adolescent mind was flummoxed by. The whole show was so turgid and big – it made quite an impact.
If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?
The Battle of Atlanta (1886), a cyclorama created by William Wehler’s American Panorama Company studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is the largest painting in the world.
What is art for?
Figuring it out.