On Saturday morning, I went to behold the grandeur and power of Kara Walker’s work, ‘The Marvelous Sugar Baby‘.
This very important piece of our time, encompasses a space that is historical, emotional, cerebral, violent, and personal. As I walked through the exhibit, alongside with other viewers, I realized that in this space, the soon-to-be no more, Domino Sugar Factory, the biggest revelation that I had was just how particular world view is.
As a anthropology student, one of the first things that your professor tries to get you to deal with is admitting and learning to recognize your own biases and the imprint of culture on the way you make connections and interact with people. It’s a both terrifying and freeing experience to realize that you are the product of some many forces that you seemingly had no control over.
I won’t burden you with a lesson on reflexivity and introspection, but I say all this to say that I had to stop myself from getting angry (I wasn’t successful) at some of the visitors who made lewd gestures while taking selfies, or giggled at the sight of her round buttocks. When you view a public work, the experience with which one interacts with the piece is part of the narrative. It is where you begin to understand the depths of cultural disconnect, the isolation of privilege.
*More images available on our instagram page. Also, check out #KaraWalkerDomino
Today is the last day of the exhibit and I know that many people will be unable to view it. The temporal nature of sugar as a medium ensured that this piece wouldn’t be around forever. In fact, by the time I saw it, many of the young child sculptures had begun to melt- the stickiness of the thick sugar making it difficult to walk in certain parts of the factory.
However, if you are interested in understanding this sculpture in a more substantive way, I would recommend the Sidney Mintz ethnography, Sweetness and Power. Here is my review on the book as well.
I also included this video in which Kara Walker discusses her process. You’ll note she read the Mintz book, and you’ll get to see the piece.
If you saw this work or if you just want to speak about it, I’d loved to hear your voice in the comments below.