The US artist Kara Walker, who will soon take over the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, has created a cover image for The New Yorker in tribute to the celebrated author Toni Morrison who died earlier this week aged 88 in New York. She was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature (1993) and wrote 11 novels including The Bluest Eye (1970) and Beloved (1987). For the 19 August issue of The New Yorker, Walker has made a unique cutout silhouette piece, entitled Quiet As It’s Kept, depicting Morrison’s profile. The work is in homage to Morrison and “to the shadow that she leaves behind”, says the journal’s art editor Françoise Mouly.
In a piece published on The New Yorker website, Walker is asked about her favourite memory of reading Morrison. “When I was 24 and staying in an old farmhouse in the Marche region of Italy. The place was full of black scorpions and I was reading Beloved. Something about being in that landscape, feeling alien, tethered me to the time and setting of the narrative. Every time I pick up that novel for a reread, I feel the warm breeze of that summer,” the artist says. And why a cutout for the cover? “After a number of false starts—pastel, clay, I even considered watercolour—I decided to keep it familiar, to use the cutout. It’s the work I do. I’m no portraitist, but I am a shadow maker,” Walker eloquently explains.