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Etching and aquatint
Support: Somerset Satin wove paper
Sheet: 88.8 x 60 cm (34 15/16 x 23 5/8 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1999.93.b
The Means to an End is a panorama that reads like chapter headings in a historical romance novel: "The Beginning," "The Hunt," "The Chase," "The Plunge," and "The End." The characters are antebellum stereotypes-slave and master or mistress, adult and child-each depicted in the style of 19th-century silhouettes. These generalized black shadows allow Walker to distance the explicit aggression portrayed in the scene and to equalize the actors, underscoring the notion that the weak accept the strong with benign passivity. As an African American artist, Walker has been criticized for her imagery, but she explains, "Illicit sex and violence are suggested as a means by which freedom was attained . . . [A] lot of it comes from the perspective of the self-made slave/mistress. It's history three times removed from me."
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