Nothing can really prepare you for the experience you have walking in the molasses soaked air of the soon to be demolished Domino sugar factory where Kara E. Walker has installed her monumental, Marvelous Sugar Baby, part Sphinx, part Aunt Jemima and like no other confection you have ever encountered.
The boys carrying baskets are made from resin, the oil like stains on the floor and in their baskets are the melted remains of sculptures that were made from sugar and molasses and over the period of the show melted. Ms. Walker would scoop up the remains and put them in the boy’s baskets.Presented by Creative Time an arts organization that specializes in public art projects that are often in grand off-beat places. For more information about this piece I hardily suggest you check out their site where there is a great video showing the construction of the piece. The New Yorker also has a thoughtful and insightful over view of the work. I just wanted to share with you what it was like walking in this building that literally still smelt of a combination of sugar and molasses. As we exited we saw in the gaps between the interior and exterior walls mounds of sugar that’s been piled there since way back when the factory was still operating. The piece itself is beautiful and haunting, as much about slavery and those who toil to produce the goods the population craves at a price that they can afford.
Taking in one of the macabre, melted sugar sculptures, I over heard a man, maybe a tour guide say: sugar was the oil of its time. We take it so for granted that when I heard him say this it was revelatory. A time before Oil? Really? The minute I heard him say it, it was obvious. Sugar the only time I think about it is when I have run out and need to get more. Something to think about the next time you make a cake. This is the kind of show you wish could be on permanent installation. But, just as oil replaced sugar, now condos will replace the Domino Sugar factory, I’m so glad I was able to see it before it vanishes.