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Joan Rothfuss discusses Kara Walker's Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997)


Joan Rothfuss


September 1999

Institution Walker Art Center
This last piece, Do You Want Cream in Your Coffee? [Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk?], is by Kara Walker. She is a young artist, I think barely thirty years old, an African-American artist. She has been making work that in a lot of ways is typical of much of the work that artists are doing at this point in time, which is work that is coming out of very specific personal experiences of the artist. It's work that examines who the artist is and the identity that's been forged through personal experience but also through other people's understanding of who you should be based on who they think you are; so, in other words, a very identity-based artist is the catch word that's often used. Kara Walker's work, I think, is very powerful because she doesn't really pull any punches at all. She's dealing with her own experience and also general issues of race and sex in this country at this time.

The piece that we have on view is really the pages of a diary or a notebook that she wrote and drew in over a period of some months, I think. It's very much based on what was going on in her life at that time. It's very specifically about how she feels. She's pregnant during the time so she's talking about the pregnancy, her fears and thoughts about that. She's also working through a real specific issue that was happening between her and other artists who were publicly, at the time, criticizing what she was doing. So, a lot of those very specific feelings are worked through in this work. We've installed it in a small room in the gallery because it is a very intimate piece. Our feeling was that viewers would want to go in and have time to spend very closely looking at and reading the pieces and have a chance to do that in a small space where they could be sort of alone with it, as if you were reading a book and get the feeling of that intimate one-to-one connection with the work. It's really kind of a look inside the mind of the artist and I think it's interesting for that reason. It shows you a process and there's a really clear sequence. If you start at the beginning of the pages and look through all sixty-six of them, you can really start to see how she's working through not only issues with her art work but also personal issues. She is one of the best draftswomen, I think, that there is among younger artists. She's a virtuoso with pen and ink, so the drawings are really a pleasure to look at, too, from that point of view.

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Type: Commentary, curatorial commentary
Source: Joan Rothfuss, Associate Curator of Visual Arts, Walker Art Center, commenting on Kara Walker's Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997), during the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 1999.
Rights: Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009