Last week at the DAC Artful Lunch Series, Professor of Art Kate Ten Eyck shared one of her favorite pieces from the collection with a group of students, faculty, and staff in the historic Alsop House. Boo Hoo is a linocut by African American artist Kara Walker. The print features the silhouette of an African American woman, contrasted against a stark white background. It explores Walker’s interest in the African American experience during the Antebellum period, as it relates to what it means to be black in the United States in the present day.
One aspect of the print that I am particularly interested in is the choice of medium. Walker is known for her silhouettes, usually cut out of sheets of black paper and mounted on to bright white sheets or walls. This linocut is executed to have a similar effect, with areas of completely opaque black ink, used to depict the woman’s skirt and hair. The upper region of the print, however, is executed in such a way that the marks made in to the linoleum are visible, and the viewer experiences the tangibility of the artist’s touch. This reminds me of the woodcuts of German expressionist artists such as Erich Heckel, who allowed the physicality of the wood to show in the final product in an assertion of the artist’s touch and spirit. I can imagine that as a female artist, Walker is trying to subvert this legacy of male expression through the use of a similar visual aesthetic that asserts the voice of women, a voice that has been silenced for too long.