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Research Guides@Tufts

Tufts University Art Galleries: Christian Walker: The Profane and the Poignant: Exhibition Overview

This exhibit surveys the work of artist, critic, and curator Christian Walker (1953–2003). A 1984 graduate of the SMFA, Walker was a path-making gay Black photographer active in Boston, Atlanta, and Seattle, who grappled with the complexities of racTufts University Art Galleries Logoe and sexuality in America to capture his own experiences and communities. While most established histories of Black gay art are rooted in New York and London, Walker’s work sheds light on the often-sidelined cities of Boston and Atlanta, investigating topics such as queer public sex, interracial desire, family archives, HIV/AIDS, censorship, drug use, and Blackness and whiteness. 

Christian Walker

Christian Walker, Another Country, c. 1990s. Ink and oil on gelatin silver print, 20 x 24 in. Collection of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection. 1995.95.3.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Christian Walker (1953–2003) moved to Boston in 1974, at which point he began making photographs. After obtaining a Fine Arts Diploma from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) in 1984, he moved to Atlanta, where he published his photo book The Theater Project (Nexus Press, 1985). Walker’s work was featured in numerous influential exhibitions in the 1980s and 1990s, including Southern Expressions: A Sense of Self (1988), Black Photographers Bear Witness: 100 Years of Social Protest (1989), The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s (1990), Christian Walker— Subject/Object: Photographs 1980–1990 (1992), Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art (1994), and Imagining Families: Images and Voices (1994), among others. 

Examples of What Walker Read

Tufts Resource

Related Themes

Black and white photograph of a main in a wheelchair with a 1980s style boombox with him.

Christian Walker, Untitled (Boston’s Combat Zone), c. 1979-83. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 in. Collection of David VanHoy.

As the World Burns: Queer Photography and Nightlife in Boston

Black and white photography of two people kissing on a moving train

Christian Walker, From The Theater Project, 1983-4. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 in. Collection of David VanHoy.

Key Questions/Questions for Self-Guided Exploration:

What are the roles of the photograph for Walker and the archive for institutions like TUAG in telling underrepresented stories? 

What is Walker’s approach to portraiture? What does he seek to capture about the people he photographs? 

How do Walker’s experiments with photography develop over the course of his career? How might they reflect his changing conception of his own identity? 

Walker’s photographs appeared in many different fora, from galleries to magazines, how did his works function differently based on site and form? 

How do the photographers of the 1970s and 1980s in As the World Burns picture nightlife as an environment that is both communal and political within Greater Boston?