Paget Millard

At the New School, one work of art that speaks to me the most is the elaborate black silhouette cutout by Kara Walker that is displayed around the staircase at Arnhold Hall. Prior to seeing this piece with a class this semester, I was already aware and very intrigued by her artwork, as another design teacher introduced the work to my class. I related it quickly to an experience I had when I was younger: I have a brief memory of having my portrait taken and it later being cut out, just like Walker’s silhouettes.

The piece in Arnhold hall at first glance seems like a story of some sort, but as you look closer and really see the images that were cut out, you start to notice some hidden messages. Walker was asked by the New School to create a mural and she came up with a piece that reflected the hardships of 19th-century slavery and the underground railroad. One can pick up on these messages from a figure whipping another figure down the never-ending tunnel, subtle chains on the figures’ feet, and other figures hiding in tunnels.

I know some of Kara Walker’s work has gotten a lot of media attention and even been object of controversy. She is not afraid to go beyond what is comfortable and socially acceptable. But there are definitely some types of people who are not going to agree with her work and will argue it is vulgar or too honest. As an aspiring artist, however, I look up to her, and value her ideas and her art because she has figured out a way to create pieces of work that are so beautiful yet also have so much history, that are so real.

How does Kara Walker’s work fit the values and environment of The New School?

Can a work be too honest?

How might work like Walker’s be made part of the education of all aspiring designers, artists and social critics at The New School?

Paget Millard
Student, Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts