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Image
Courtesy Walker Art Center
Rights
© Kara Walker

Copyright

All content including images, text documents, audio, video, and interactive media published on the Walker web site (walkerart.org) is for noncommercial, educational and/or personal use only. Any commercial use or republication is strictly prohibited. Copying, redistribution, or exploitation for personal or corporate gain is not permitted.

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Title
Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk?
Artist
Kara Walker
Date
1997
Dimensions
each of 64 11.625 × 8.1875 inches
Materials
watercolor, colored pencil, graphite on paper
Location
Not on view

Object Details

Type
Drawings and Watercolors (Drawings)
Accession Number
1998.100.1-.66
Inscriptions
in pencil on reverse of .66 BR “KW 97”
Physical Description
a diary of watercolor works from the artists notebook
Printer
N.A.
Credit Line
Justin Smith Purchase Fund, 1998
Object Copyright
© Kara Walker

object label Kara Walker, Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997) Walker Art Center, 1999

I wanted to make work where the viewer wouldn’t walk away; he would either giggle nervously, get pulled into history, into fiction, into something totally demeaning and possibly very beautiful. I wanted to create something that looks like you.–Kara Walker, 1996

Kara Walker is best known for her room-size tableaus of black-paper cutout silhouettes that take an irreverent, occasionally humorous, and all-around fantastical look at the underbelly of America’s obsessions with race, sex, and violence. She draws her iconography from sources as varied as the antebellum South, historical romance novels, commercial culture, and slave narratives. Through a “collusion of fact and fiction,” she creates a complex reading of history that is at once seductive and confrontational.

Walker’s charged imagery has garnered intense criticism and debate. In July 1997, an older generation of African-American artists embarked upon a letter-writing campaign in which they asked colleagues for their help “to spread awareness about the negative images produced by the young African-American artist, Kara Walker.” Questioning the validity and intent of the images as well as the reasoning behind “rewarding” Walker with a prestigious MacArthur Foundation Grant (won earlier that year), the campaign inspired accusations of censorship but also support. The debate continued in journals and at a historic symposium on the use of black stereotypes in visual culture at Harvard University in 1998. According to the artist, this series of watercolors was begun as a diaristic response to the controversy.

Walker created these drawings between August and December 1997, while she was pregnant with her first child. This body of work records her dreams, depicts the complicit and victimized human body, and presents imaginary dialogues between the artist and her most vocal critics. Sarcasm, indignation, humor, and dismissal commingle on the same page. These drawings continue the debate over representation in contemporary culture, and record a historic moment in the politics of race in this country.

Label text for Kara Walker, Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

curatorial commentary Joan Rothfuss discusses Kara Walker’s Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997) Joan Rothfuss, September 1999

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.

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.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

curatorial commentary Philippe Vergne discusses Kara Walker’s Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997) Philippe Vergne, September 1999

I choose another artist, Kara Walker, which has been very, very controversial, which is also something for me which is difficult to speak with because I’m … (I don’t know if you’re interested in that, but …) Coming from Europe, it’s very interesting for me to see how her work is controversial because she is dealing with the post-colonial history of America, also, in a … opened by David Hammons, dealing with the stereotype of the African-American representation. We had her in an exhibition called “No Place Like Home” a few years ago where she did this profile work, black papers cut which were addressing like a stereotype … (I don’t know how you call that) The way I was seeing this work was she was using something very South, the way at the end of the nineteenth century, people were doing narrative historical representation. She deals through this work with the story of slavery and in a very disturbing way, because she is making something which is very healing in one hand and very aggressive and cruel on the other hand, but dealing with a lot of distance with that history, with a lot of humor, too. When you look at her work, there is not one of the communities engaged in the work which is safe. Both are not criticized, but are shown with this idea of caricature of the stereotypes. Because of this first kind of work, this profile thing, she was very attacked by the art community and also the African-American art community telling her that she couldn’t do that. This stereotype she was using was not something you can play with. It’s not a joke and … distance couldn’t be applied to this kind of history. And to answer this thing she did this whole series of drawings to answer these critiques as a diary called Do You Want Cream in Your Coffee? [Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk?], which addresses like a diary her reaction to this criticism, also in a very classical way. It’s watercolor. It’s also … I don’t know if it’s caricature … I don’t know if it’s grotesque but addressing in a very, very violent way the issue of race, issues of her gender.

Philippe Vergne, 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.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

object label Kara Walker, Selected drawings from Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997) Walker Art Center, 1999

Kara Walker’s art takes an irreverent, humorous, ghoulish, and all-around fantastical look at the underbelly of America’s obsessions with race, sex, and violence. Although best known for her room-size tableaus of black-and-white silhouettes, Walker also sustains a prolific output of smaller drawings and works on paper. The artist draws her iconography from sources as varied as the pre-Civil War American South, historical romance novels, commercial culture, and slave narratives. Through a “collusion of fact and fiction,” she creates a complex reading of history that is at once seductive and terrifying. What at first glance appears innocent in its fairy-tale rendering is, upon closer inspection, soon revealed to be full of surprising twists and outlandish situations.

Label text for Kara Walker, Selected drawings from Do You Like Creme in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997), from the exhibition Black History Month, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, February 1999.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center