Precarious Dialogues with “Inner Plantation” in Kara Walker’s Silhouette and Sculpture Installations

Valeriya Sabitova



With reference to the traumatic legacy of slavery, this article analyses two works of American contemporary painter, silhouettist and installation artist Kara Walker: The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven (1995) and A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby: an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plan (2014). The article, through the analysis of capitalization on stereotypes as an artistic strategy, argues that Walker not only moves beyond common cultural and representational paradigm of dealing with trauma and violence of slavery but also targets the process of internalization of a paradigm per se. Positing historical references against the ambiguity of her images and against the reaction of contemporary audience, Walker uses the theatrical potential of gallery and installation space, not merely immersing the viewers into her artwork but exposing the trauma and violence of slavery as subsumed by their representation. Such elusive boundaries which Walker terms “inner plantation” are taken as a point of departure for the analysis.


culture, representation, stereotype, trauma, violence, Kara Walker, audience, silhouette, installation, affect




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