In 1994—the year she graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design—Kara Walker made her debut as an artist at the Drawing Center in Soho. Three years later, at the age of 27, she became one of the youngest recipients of a MacArthur Genius grant. Since then, she has exhibited her work at the Whitney Biennial, the São Paulo Bienniel, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, much of it exploring American imaginings about the antebellum South, yoking genteel imagery to depictions of sex, exploitation, and violence.
With that brief sketch of Walker's career, Lizabeth Cohen, dean of the Radcliffe Institute, introduced the artist for her December 8 lecture, "Sweet Talk." Taking the podium, Walker said that her first instinct after hearing these accolades was always to add: "My work is really funny. I should throw that in there."