Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kara Walker in Fort Worth

Kara Walker's lecture at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth last night was sold out. Think about that a moment. I'm talking about Cow Town, Texas.

We were a little late getting there and it wasn't clear we'd get in. Tickets were distributed beginning at 5:00. We rolled in at 5:20 to a line of what seemed like hundreds of people. When we got to within a dozen folks of the ticket desk, word came down that all the seats in the auditorium AND in the overflow area in the museum's cafe were taken. I'd called from home, though, and my press credentials did their job.

Walker was an uncomfortable speaker. Talking doesn't come easily for her. It's as though she doesn't trust language to carry her intended meanings. Or rather the one-step-removed meanings of our language can't convey the direct, unmediated content she wants us to experience. She spoke of her traveling show (Minneapolis, Paris, New York, an now Fort Worth) as a "wandering soul," and remarked that viewing this latest installment surprised her: "I'm not the person I think I am."

It became apparent that she is engaged in a struggle to come to grips with her relationship to the discourse of painting and what it means to her "black body." My notes include references to "deeply felt ambivalence," "contradictory impulses," and "unstable identity." Abstract discussions of being and representing might be stimulating pastimes. Walker is out to embody the discussion, to enact it in flesh.

On the way home, I told my companion that my notes from the question and answer period included "the white guy talks too much."

"Well, duh," she replied.

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