Oct 6, 2008

The Means to an End...A Shadow Drama in Five Acts

The Means to an End...A Shadow Drama in Five Acts


Part of a set. See all set records

Kara Walker

(American, b. 1969)

Etching and aquatint

Sheet: 88.5 x 59.2 cm (34 13/16 x 23 5/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1999.93



The Means to an End is a panorama that reads like chapter headings in a historical romance novel: "The Beginning," "The Hunt," "The Chase," "The Plunge," and "The End." The characters are antebellum stereotypes-slave and master or mistress, adult and child-each depicted in the style of 19th-century silhouettes. These generalized black shadows allow Walker to distance the explicit aggression portrayed in the scene and to equalize the actors, underscoring the notion that the weak accept the strong with benign passivity. As an African American artist, Walker has been criticized for her imagery, but she explains, "Illicit sex and violence are suggested as a means by which freedom was attained . . . [A] lot of it comes from the perspective of the self-made slave/mistress. It's history three times removed from me."

See also
PR - Etching
Type of artwork: 

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@clevelandart.org.

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.