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Sketchbook | Shadow Maker

Artist Kara Walker MFA 94 PT/PR speaks to the Toni Morrison tribute she created for the cover of The New Yorker.

Sketchbook | Shadow Maker

“I felt urged on by an absence—trying to fill a void,” says Kara Walker MFA 94 PT/PR in considering how she created the cover image of the late, great writer Toni Morrison for the August 19, 2019 issue of The New Yorker.

“I wasn’t sure what to do, really,” Walker explains in an interview with Françoise Mouly, the magazine’s longtime art editor.

“Like many artists, I looked up to Ms. Morrison for some kind of approval and validation that I usually didn’t seek in life,” the MacArthur Award-winner continues. “Through her work and words, she became something like a muse, teacher, mother, clairvoyant and judge—always a presence urging me on.”

After a number of “false starts” in creating the cover—working in clay and pastel, and even considering watercolor—Walker went with the medium for which she was first best known. And she titled her striking New Yorker image Quiet As It’s Kept.

“I decided to keep it familiar—to use the cutout,” Walker concludes. “It’s the work I do. I’m no portraitist, but I am a shadow maker.”

—Liisa Silander / sketch images from The New Yorker’s site

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