I joined the Harvard Art Museums materials lab workshop yesterday learning about Paper Cutting and Kara Walker’s art. Penley Knipe, the Works of Art on paper Conservator took us on a historical tour of the museum’s silhouette pieces.
Contemporary art curator Mary Schneider Enriquez enlightening us on Kara Walker’s “USA Idioms” collage which is currently on view at the Harvard Art Museum. Even though this piece is a departure from Walker’s cut paper silhouettes with her re-telling of African American history. There was something very powerful and humbling with her new work. The contrast of the beautiful mark making with the subject matter of death, destruction and racism put the viewer at unease. The temporal nature ink on newsprint, it’s fragility and vulnerability to fading and being broken says a lot about our current cultural climate. I loved the way Walker rhythmically arranges the figures giving just enough space for us to visually breath and then presents us with death. The line work is varied with thin to thick marks, meandering tree limbs that sometimes look like human limbs. Their is almost childlike freeness in the way the ink flows through the work. Dangling lifeless slaves, a chilling but important retelling of history.
Back at the Materials lab we all had a go with cutting black and white Silhouettes. This combination of hands on learning with art history makes the whole place come alive. I also loved how accessible and down to earth everyone was at the museum from Mary, Penley to the staff. Great day to be out and about in Cambridge!
My first silhouette turned out to be very literal with Ms. Seahorse in Seagrass
A lot happier with this abstraction of seahorse in seagrass..