Kara Walker Exhibit Continues with "Redrawing Identity" Panel
By Aria Bracci '17 | Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Aria Bracci '17
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The ongoing exhibit "Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker’s Tales of Slavery and Power" at The University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) weaves slavery’s history into the present. In its handling of racial and economic structures that have persisted throughout American history, Walker’s work invokes historically poignant but distinct efforts, like Black Power and Black Lives Matter. In doing so, it necessarily engages minds across disciplines. On April 3rd, the UMass community is invited to attend “Redrawing Identity,” a panel that explores and seeks out these intersections.
“Redrawing Identity” will host scholars from the Five Colleges and beyond to explore how art can navigate social identity and its interaction with politics. Walker’s work provides a unique opportunity for the engagement of minds across disciplines. UMass professor Karen Kurczynski will serve as the panel’s moderator.
Kurczynski, an assistant professor of Modern Contemporary Art within the Department of History of Art & Architecture, says she emphasizes “both feminist perspectives and issues of race” in all of her courses since she acknowledges the necessity of their inclusion when analyzing art’s place in society. To do so, she often cites Walker herself. “I have taught students about Walker's work for years, as I consider her one of the most significant American artists working today,” Kurczynski said.
“The politics of identity is something we engage with every day whether we choose to or not,” said Kurczynski, “and many people are not given the choice at all, but confronted with the problems of identity on a daily basis due to the way they look.” When handling social identity politics, Kurczynski explained, “it's essential to consider what art has to say about it that other forms of communication—whether statistics, economic studies, literature, or other forms of language, all of which are on their own inadequate to capture the enormity of the problem of race in America—are not able to convey.” In other words, racism does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is a social phenomenon that requires transdisciplinary and intersectional analysis.
From this perspective, this panel holds central importance to one’s viewing of Walker’s art. With professors from Amherst, Westfield, and New York City, all with varying specialties within Art and Art History, Kurczynski’s role will be to allow these views to intersect and grow. There exists a reciprocity between community and individual, and “Redrawing Identity” will attempt to harness the diversity of experience to create a deeper understanding of identity.
This effort is, and has been, upheld historically by Walker herself, who, as Kurczynski emphasizes, “uses a powerful combination of beautiful and grotesque imagery in order to confront us with the emotional horrors of slavery and its central role in creating the perceptions of race that still structure our society, perceptions that relate to real and ongoing socio-economic conditions, as much as we'd like to put the history of slavery behind us.”
“Redrawing Identity” will be held on April 3rd in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall from 4:00-5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.