Native New Yorker and MacArthur Fellow recipient Kara Walker is an internationally known artist, famous for her paper cut-out silhouettes and socially charged art work. Many of her pieces reflect oppression and repression, specifically blacks in the antebellum South and current themes of victims of Hurricane Katrina. Her work stirs social injustice; and this time she’s put sugar in it, but the story expressed is quite bitter.
In a defunct Domino Sugar factory, in conjunction with Creative Time, Walker has created a sphinx-like woman figure named “Marvelous Sugar Baby” who is “[the] guardian of the city, the keeper of the riddle, the devourer of heroes” as quoted in Complex magazine.
The sugary creation is not just a matter of happenstance. Sugar played a significant role in slavery and the slave trade. Sugar, a source of many delightful treats, is also the cause of some of the most horrific events in global history.
Using both refined sugar and molasses plays on the necessity to take sugar, which in its purest form is rough cut and brown, and turn it into something delicate and white. Each child statue is made out of molasses.
At 35 feet tall the “guardian” woman, with her exaggerated and distinctive African features and exposed bottom, pays homage to the unpaid and overworked artisans who have refined sugar for centuries.
The waterfront Brooklyn, New York, property is currently under construction. The owners intend to create luxury condos with a completion date of 2023. Once again, Domino Sugar will do what it does best: make things white and “refined.”