For her, the hardest thing about being an artist—“the crazy-making part”—is figuring out what to make. When she’s blocked, she reads (“my own amateur black studies course”), writes and draws. Rising from her chair, she goes to a nearby table and picks up a stack of drawings, executed in watercolor on blue paper. There’s a man urinating into a bucket, his torso bound; an elegant female nude in profile; a black woman bursting a bubble with a white man’s face inside. Maintaining a practice that began as a school assignment, she does 100 drawings in a sitting. “But sometimes the first 75 are the dumbest, most idiotic, nondrawing, moronic stuff,” she explains. “You have to find a rhythm.”
After the rhythm comes the song, or perhaps more aptly in Walker’s case, the story. Her art, which resonates like a modern-day slave narrative, stands solidly in the storytelling tradition. “It’s kind of accidental,” she says, adding, “There’s a place in contemporary American culture for African-American female truth telling. To tell it like it is or to tell it like it isn’t or to tell it like you dreamed it up.”
Says Vergne, “I think Kara is saying there is no truth.”
Of course, ambiguity makes some people nervous. In Walker’s case the potshots have come from across the ideological spectrum. Some detractors have called her politically correct, others incorrect. A hint of a smile crosses Walker’s lips when she hears of the dispute, seemingly for the first time. “Yeah, somewhere in between there is a little black figure dancing around, having a laugh,” she says, then breaks into an old soft-shoe.