American, b. 1969
Resurrection Story Without Patrons, 2017
Etching with aquatint, sugar-lift, spit-bite and dry-point on Hahnemuhle Copperplate Bright White 400 gsm paper. Edition XXVIII of XXX
Purchase from Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
Kara Walker is a leading contemporary artist known for her investigations of race, gender, sexuality, and stereotypes through a cut-paper silhouette style typical of the 18th century. In her works, Walker recalls the history of slavery and its violent legacy in America. At first glance, her silhouettes appear like storybook pictures, but closer inspection reveals harrowing imagery where subjects are inflicted with violence against often placid, pastoral landscapes.
Walker conceived of Resurrection Story Without Patrons following a residency at the American Academy in Rome in 2016. The classical artworks she saw in Italy, while the Black Lives Matter movement grew in America, inspired Walker to explore themes of martyrdom, memorial, religion, and alternative history.
Resurrection Story Without Patrons is made in the tradition of the medieval altarpiece—a religious work of art often commissioned as a folding triptych, with a narrative image usually depicted in the center, and depictions of the wealthy patrons who commissioned the piece either to the left or right of the centerpiece. Resurrection Story Without Patrons is the central panel of Walker’s reimagined altarpiece, where the torso and head of a Black woman is raised by Black men, women, and children as a monument to the Middle Passage. The sculpture is pulled upward by three ropes tied around the woman’s neck. These ropes allude to lynching, while the diversity of age and gender in those who lift the monument suggest generational trauma.
Walker’s piece is particularly timely as discourse regarding the removal of memorials, often of white men mythologized in American history, is under heated debate. Resurrection Story Without Patrons presents an alternative history, one where the suffering of the Black community throughout history to the present day, bears the same significance as the white men admired by the oppressive society that perpetuated the enslavement of Black people. The altarpiece as a mode of presentation also calls into question how religion is used as a cover to justify the heinous acts of our country against the lives and sovereignty of others.
Resurrection Story Without Patrons is the Berman Museum’s most recent acquisition, collected in 2020. This piece serves as a bookend for Lucky Seven; however, it is not an end by any means, rather a symbol of the museum’s commitment to diversify its collection, honor the original vision of Philip and Muriel Berman, and continue to collect relevant artworks of our contemporary era.