This story is over 5 years old.


On Being Kara Walker's Daughter

Octavia Bürgel writes about growing up with a noteworthy, Black, female, artist as her mother.

My mother raised me strong, and good, and I am very grateful. I cannot claim to have had an unremarkable upbringing. My parents, both artists, exposed me to a conceptual world far beyond the perception of many of my peers and encouraged me to pursue my artistic interests. Yet I remain mystified when people make assumptions about my upbringing having been in some chaotically lenient household.

At some point in my youth I realized that my mother, Kara Walker, had accrued a decent amount of success. At that point it was made clear to me I was not to treat her any differently than I had prior—and she gave me no reason to, so I didn't. Like most other mothers I know, mine soothes and protects, dotes and encourages, cooks and cleans and plays, jokes, annoys, confounds… In reality, I have never thought of myself as an artist's daughter, but solely as my mother's daughter; and since my mother does most things artfully I inherited her sensibilities anyway.

Kara Walker with the author as a baby

This is not to say that she shielded me from the art world. Growing up I was privy to all of its trends and controversies. But my mother, the art world, and I function as an ever-evolving trio, and while my mother and I each require the other two to sustain, I cannot say that the art world has needed me for anything.

In a recent phone call, she tells me that I seemed to have made my mind up about art by the time I was five. At the 2002 Documenta11, I found myself frustrated by a piece by Brazilian conceptual artist Clido Meireles. Titled Disappearing Element/ Disappeared Element (Imminent Past) , the work consisted of a series of stands selling popsicles made of plain ice. Deeply disappointed by the flavorlessness of my "treat," I staunchly proclaimed, "Oh I get it, being an artist just means making something that tricks people." As a child, my proximity to art imbued in me a profound skepticism. Still, as I grew older my interests began to lead me down that same road, and I find myself falling into the family trade.

Read full story at Creators.