Wednesday, October 3, 2007
In Hilton Als portrait of Kara Walker in The New Yorker this week, he ends with a sentimental vision of Walker celebrating her retrospective in a Paris restaurant with her gallery and others. Also, at the table is Octavia, Walker’s daughter, who sits there drawing.
Walker reminisces, “When Octavia was four, we were at an event like this […] And people were saying my name. And Octavia looked up and said, exasperated, ‘Kara Walker, Kara Walker. When is it gonna be my turn?’”
As if what the child wanted was to be an artist. Dream on folks. The child wanted her mother’s attention! And then the child turned to art hoping that if she did what her mother loved to do, she would get her attention. Maybe her mother would even be proud.
Children of artists psychology 101.
In no way do I mean to paint Walker in a bad light. What I’m trying to say is, as much as Kara Walker’s work brashly delves into social devils, we cannot forget how personal these must feel to her, not only as a black woman in the world at large, but as the child of a family that, from the sounds of it, doesn’t know how to be one. She refers to family intimacy as an “experiment.” And while art has served as a fantastic outlet to air ghosts – and have us confront them – I wonder about how she balances motherliness in there.
The ten million dollar question: can an artist also be a mother?