20 This image was made sometime before this sale, and we can see her n
last name has been appended on the lower right in a different hand.
21 Kara Walker, quoted in Hilarie M. Sheets, ‘‘Cut It Out!’’ ArtNews 101, n
(April 2002): 128.
22 As a mechanically mediated visual presentation, the portrait profiles m
by this device promised their consumer a certain indexical primacy t
other forms of image making could not. Like the photographic media t
would eventually eclipse it, the Physiognotrace device produced what
viewed by many to be a pure act of mechanical mimesis, an image pra
cally unaltered by human hands. But because the human intervention
hand cutting was a necessary part of their creation, Physiognotraced p
files also retained what Walter Benjamin would term an almost contra
tory aura of originality. This shift from an individual image to an infini
reproducible generalization raises many issues about the silhouette’s
ture as sign. See Walter Benjamin, ‘‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mech
cal Reproduction,’’ in Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1985)
23 Henry Louis Gates Jr. discusses this type of anxiety and confusion in
introduction to The Slave’s Narrative (Oxford: Oxford University Pr
1985), xxvi–xxxi.
24 Gates, The Signifying Monkey, xxiii.
25 That this act comes around 1802, at the beginning of his career, sh
both his interest in fitting into the professional society of white Phila
phia and his ability to manipulate and defy its tenets. Williams’s marri
to the Peale’s white cook, Maria, further indicates this ability. And the
that their daughter disappeared from history by changing her name
passing for white shows the legacy of the father’s own search for iden
within a racialized selfhood.
26 Kara Walker, quoted in Lynn Gumpert, ‘‘Kara Walker: Anything but Bl
and White,’’ ArtNews 96, no. 1 ( January 1997): 136.
27 Powell proposed an African American genealogy for Walker’s work in
opening remarks at the panel ‘‘African American Imprint on Ameri
Arts and Letters’’ at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the foundin
the Department of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, 8 A
28 Henry Louis Gates Jr., ‘‘The Face and Voice of Blackness,’’ in Facing
tory: The Black Image in American Art, ed. Guy C. McElroy et al. (Washingt
D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1990), xxix.
29 Miles Unger, ‘‘Contested Histories,’’ Art New England 19, no. 4 ( June/ J
1998): 29.
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