Visit to the Domino Sugar Factory, Kara Walker Art Exhibit

Kara Walker Domino Sugar (1 of 17)
There is an artist in NYC who writes notes in the sky. This one said “existence non existence” I believe.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (2 of 17)
There is a bike park and some sort of street fair across from the Domino Sugar factory. There was a teepee in it
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (3 of 17)
The line wait was about 40 minutes, but felt like eternity in the blistering summer sun. The line wrapped down the block, then there was a further line going from the grounds entrance to the factory itself. Young, spritely volunteers handed out calamity waivers at the entrance.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (4 of 17)
The whole area was decorated with hipster graffiti and murals, public arts. Across the street was a hand-painted advertisement for beer or some-such.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (5 of 17)
I was testing out a new lens… although they claim that the factory is undaunted by rodents, I did spot this pigeon.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (7 of 17)
Inside, the abandoned factory itself was just as much an attraction as Kara’s artworks.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (8 of 17)
A photographer could have a field day just taking pictures of the space.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (9 of 17)
There was old sugar resting on every surface. The scent of rotting sweetness could be smelled outside. “I smell sugar!” a little kid yelled while we were in line… and indeed it was true.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (10 of 17)
This was one of Kara Walker’s real sugar babies, I do believe.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (11 of 17)
The sugar babies all had a sick attractiveness, but the ones that were fully made of real sugar felt the most poignant. They all oozed with a black, tarry residue, which at times seemed a little dramatic, but nonetheless impactful. It was nice to see the contrast between smooth and grimy, the edible and the unclean.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (12 of 17)
The sugar babies that were made of resin were more like dolls, covered in a griminess reminiscent of that which accumulates on very old things. The fact that it was an intentionally added patina made these more like props. But the intention was still clear.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (13 of 17)
On these, the multiple forms of sugar were better represented than with the ones that were actually made of sugar and melting. Seeing the sugar this way was a bit like observing a science experiment.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (14 of 17)
The still babies were posed fairly far apart in the large space. They successfully blended into the overall set of disused machines and cold, hard surfaces.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (15 of 17)
Some hipster had his Dad take photos of him throughout the space. It seemed like he was barely paying attention to the art at all, but I can’t blame him. I even considered taking one of my models there another day to do a shoot on the fly…
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (17 of 17)
There’s that hipster again.
Kara Walker Domino Sugar (16 of 17)
Splat. The oozing brown sugar gave me the willies. I kept imagining the taste of sugar on my tongue, yet seeing it stepped in and thrown about was greatly disgusting.

Of course race and history were the primary discussions going on here, but it really bothered me that the statues were not fully made of sugar. That the process had not been perfected or concluded, and that instead we were given mock-ups or props that represented the idea instead of the real thing. Maybe I’m a purist, but I felt a little gypped. Looking up at the biggest attraction, the massive white statue, the “white elephant” in the room, all i could see was foam.

Having worked at an art production shop, creating props of foam, all I could think about was how the thing had been constructed. I imagined how each foam block was cut based on a digital model, then pieced together on-location and covered with layer upon layer of dissolved white sugar. I imagined the fabricators and possible interns who had worked on this. The seams were obvious (maybe that was something that developed over time?)

Maybe if the thing had been made of plaster mixed with sugar, or some other hybrid substance, then the piece would have felt richer, heavier, and would have had the power to overtake the very specific history of the Domino Sugar Factory itself, and transport visitors into the intended world of Kara Walker’s historic perspective.

Video Coming soon.

Kara Walker installation “A Subtlety or The Marvelous Sugar Baby” closes, July 6.