I started seeing pictures of and hearing more about Kara Walker's installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. When DeChelle mentioned wanting to take a trip to NYC to see it, I was completely on board. We just barely squeezed it in, going on the day before it closed.
There was a long, long, LONG line by the time we got there around 1 pm on Saturday. Skeptical about the wait time, we followed the line block by block until we were about 7 or 8 blocks from the entrance and on the other side of the Williamsburg bridge. The line moved quickly though, and we were inside the factory in just over an hour.
"It does smell sweet," DeChelle and I said to each other as we walked into the factory. I turned to the right and stopped in my tracks. There she was, all the way on the other side of the factory, surrounded by people, shining in the sun pouring through the skylight. A subtlety*...or Marvelous Sugar Baby
After taking in the scene as a whole, I saw one of the smaller figures of a young boy just in front of me so I wandered over, watching as others looked intently at him. These smaller figures were made of molasses and had unrefined sugar in the fruit baskets on their backs. They appeared to be melting, oozing with dark, sticky pools beneath and around them.
As we got closer to the sphinx figure, the smell got much sweeter and then even rather pungent. She loomed above us all, so regal and mesmerizing. I wanted to take it all in, walking around slowly. I looked up at the high ceiling and across the huge factory, imagining massive piles of sugar as it once held. Instead of shapeless mounds as it once was, on this day there stood this figure, this statement.
I won't try to explain what it all means as my experience will vary from others and from the artist herself. I will say that it was an impressive installation and experience that made me really think about the history of sugar, of slavery, of the pursuit of "perfection" and the flawed ways that word has been defined.
To find out more, read this interview with Kara Walker.
*In the interview with Kara Walker, I learned that a subtlety is not just something that is muted or subdued but was also a medieval dish eaten by the rich...a political sugar sculpture eaten in between courses or as dessert.