karaEarly Life

Walker was born in Stockton, CA in 1969. Her father, Larry Walker,is a formally educated artist as well as a retired professor and administrator. Her mother worked as an administrative assistant.

“One of my earliest memories involves sitting on my dad’s lap in his studio in the garage of our house and watching him draw. I remember thinking: ‘I want to do that, too,’ and I pretty much decided then and there at age 2½ or 3 that I was an artist just like Dad.” —Kara Walker

Kara Walker moved to her father's native Georgia at the age of 13 when he accepted a position at Georgia State University. She received her BFA from the Atlata College of Art in 1991 and her MFAfrom the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994.

Joining the Art World

Walker first came to art world attention in 1994 with her mural Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. This unusual cut-paper silhouette mural, presenting an old-timey south filled with sex and slavery was an instant hit.walk

At the age of 27 she became the second youngest recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant, second only to renowned Mayanist David Stuart. In 2007, Walker Art Center exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Oppressor, My Enemy, My Love was the artist’s first full-scale U.S. museum survey. Walker currently lives in New York, where she has been a professor of visual arts in the MFA program at Columbia Uiversity since 2001.

Influences include Andy Warhol, with his omnivorous eye and moral distance, and Robert Colescott, who inserted cartoonish Dixie sharecroppers into his version of Vincent van Gogh's Dutch peasant cottages.