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The Marvelous Sugar Baby : a thought provoking sugar sphinx by Kara Walker

I just saw Kara Walker’s stunning sugar sphinx installation in Brooklyn called “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby , an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”    

It is at the Domino Sugar Factory . This sugar refinening factory was built in 1882 and processed half the sugar that is consumed in the USA. The massive storage shed is where the dark brown raw sugar was kept before being bleached and whitened. The walls of the shed are dark brown and stained by the dripping molasses

The Marvelous Sugar Baby is 35 feet high ( 10.7 meters)  and 75 feet long ( 22.9 meters ) , and it took four tons of sugar to create.  Afterward, the refining plant will be torn down and tall , expensive condo buildings will be built.  

The installation is an ode to the cane fields’ black labor that Karen Walker has chosen to make grotesquely white. She has titled it “A Subtlety” — after the intricate sugar sculptures that were centerpieces for medieval feasts — even though it is absurdly unsubtle. 

The Washington Post says :

She’s doing what she does best: drawing you in with something sweet, something almost charming, before you realize you’ve admired something disturbing. In this case, that’s the horror-riddled Caribbean slave trade that helped fuel the industrial gains of the 18th and 19th centuries; a slave trade built to profit from an insatiable Western market for refined sugar treats and rum.

“Basically, it was blood sugar,” Walker says. “Like we talk about blood diamonds today, there were pamphlets saying this sugar has blood on its hands.”

She explains that to make the sugar, the cane had to be fed into large mills by hand. It was a dangerous process: Slaves lost hands, arms, limbs and lives.

“I’ve been kind of back and forth with my reverence for sugar,” Walker says. “Like, how we’re all kind of invested in its production without really realizing just what goes into it; how much chemistry goes into extracting whiteness from the sugar cane.”

There is a descriptive article of the politics of the sculpture in the New Yorker article  here

The installation closes July 6.



4 responses to “The Marvelous Sugar Baby : a thought provoking sugar sphinx by Kara Walker”

  1. macarena says:

    Fantastic!! Mas alla de SUTIL! Tantas lecturas posibles: politica, social, genero, nutricion… GRACIAS

  2. whoah this weblog is great i like reading your articles.
    Keep up the good work! You recognize, lots of individuals are looking round for this info, you could help them greatly.

  3. Increible!!!! me encanta el uso de la palabra “sutileza”… inteligentisima Kara Walker, bs

    • fashionsphinx says:

      si…..es increible
      no tengo palabras
      toda una experiencia y como dices tu , la palabra sutileza es clave !

      todo una burrada ……..point made ! y en cuanto construyan esos condominiums y no quede rastro del sugar factory , quedará olvidado un capitulo muy importante de la historia de los USA y el trafico de esclavos y el comercio del azucar : blood sugar

      xxxxxx

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