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← Kara Walker: "A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby" | ART21 "Exclusive"

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Showing Revision 1 created 07/31/2014 by Amara Bot.

  1. Kara Walker: "A Subtlety, or the Marvelous
    Sugar Baby"
  2. [WALKER] "Kara Walker's work deals with history..."
  3. [Domino Sugar Factory, Brooklyn, NY]
  4. Embedded in that statement,
  5. "Kara Walker is dealing with history,"
  6. is this kind of desire for
  7. a hero who can fix this problem
  8. of our history and racism.
  9. And I don't think that my work is actually
  10. effectively dealing with history.
  11. I think of my work as kind of
  12. subsumed by history [LAUGHS]
  13. or consumed by history.
  14. [MAN #1] Alright, what we want...
  15. we want to work from the back, forward.
  16. [MAN #2] Go the back...
  17. the layout...
  18. 14, 24, 34, 44.
  19. [MAN #1] Okay.
  20. [WALKER] Nato Thompson from Creative Time,
  21. he said, "You have to see this."
  22. "This place is totally filled with molasses."
  23. Molasses on the walls,
  24. molasses on the rafters,
  25. globs of sugar fifty feet up in the air,
  26. just left over from this refining process.
  27. It was such a cathedral to industry,
  28. and such a cathedral to this one commodity.
  29. The whole project is predicated on
  30. this space being demolished
  31. at the end of the run of the show.
  32. I had to learn more about sugar
  33. in the process of trying to understand this
  34. Sugar comes from sugar cane.
  35. Sugar cane is grown in tropical climates.
  36. Sugar cane is, and has been, harvested by
  37. underpaid workers, and children possibly.
  38. It's a fascinating and very long history.
  39. I started putting down all of my free association
  40. starting with sugar and molasses.
  41. And molasses is a by-product
  42. of the sugar processing.
  43. What other by-products are there?
  44. And I got to the end, and I was like,
  45. "Ruins!" You know?
  46. It was just like, "Ruins,"
  47. everything was just in ruins.
  48. And I couldn't just produce ruins.
  49. In this book I was reading
  50. about the history of sugar,
  51. contemporaries described something called
  52. a "sugar subtlety".
  53. I loved this term.
  54. A "subtlety" is a sugar sculpture
  55. made out of sugar paste,
  56. marzipan,
  57. fruits and nuts,
  58. that was sculpted to portray royalty,
  59. and only could be consumed by
  60. royalty, nobility, clergy.
  61. The subtlety presents this opportunity
  62. to make a figure that
  63. can embrace many themes
  64. that is representative of power
  65. in and of itself.
  66. [WALKER] Wow!
  67. I was sort of grasping at
  68. too many different ideas
  69. that I wanted to bring into the piece.
  70. [WOMAN] Like, what don't you want it to look
  71. [WALKER] I don't know how to answer that.
  72. I mean, I've never done anything like this
    before [LAUGHS]
  73. So I don't really have, like,
  74. a really good opinion, you know?
  75. From ruins to the sugar subtlety
  76. lead me to think about the...
  77. you know, what sort of figure,
  78. and what sort of position would she occupy.
  79. I think there was a moment of stepping back
  80. and...ding! You know?
  81. "Oh, what about a sphinx?"
  82. You know, it was very subtle, actually. [LAUGHS]
  83. It's not a kind of
  84. Egyptophile relic.
  85. This is someone from the new world.
  86. I was not at all secure about doing sculpture.
  87. This was one of those things that was
  88. so out of my league that I hung back
  89. during the sculpting process.
  90. [MICHAEL FERRARI-FONTANA] We started with
    a clay model.
  91. The model was scanned and digitized
  92. and created into a file that could be read
    by carving robots.
  93. It's simply one layer that goes on top of the other.
  94. You always hear about sculptors
  95. [Michael Ferrari-Fontana, Sculptor]
  96. liberating the figure from the block.
  97. We go back in with the bow wires
  98. and basically drag the bow wire across the
    blocks at angles
  99. in order to achieve the curvatures that we're
    looking for.
  100. No matter how incredible robotic carving is
  101. the hand is an element that you can't get
    away from.
  102. And it's beyond the hand.
  103. It's not just the hand--
  104. it's what's driving the hand.
  105. [ERIC HAGAN] We're in the process of doing
    our first test,
  106. so we're still very much in the discovery
  107. I've done a lot of smaller tests--
  108. some twelve-inch figures--
  109. [Eric Hagan, Sugar Artist]
  110. but nothing five-feet tall.
  111. So it's a mixture of
  112. corn syrup, sugar, and water.
  113. Kind of like what you would use to make
  114. caramel, or lollipops.
  115. So we're boiling it up to between
  116. 265 and 290 degrees Fahrenheit.
  117. We're pouring them into a rubber mold
  118. to let them set.
  119. So when we de-mold them,
  120. they will be covered in the sugar and water
  121. similar to the sphinx.
  122. [WALKER] I highly recommend a fifty-pound
    bag of sugar
  123. for personal therapy.
  124. But if you mix it with
  125. a couple of gallons of water...
  126. it's very fun.
  127. I mean, it's the most fun I've had since kindergarten,
    I think,
  128. making art.
  129. I think it was very important to me to have
  130. figures made out of a substance that is so
  131. temporal--
  132. it's so subject to change.
  133. I really recognize what a privilege it is
  134. to be working in that space,
  135. because I can think of
  136. a thousand other artists who could take on
    the challenge
  137. of that space.
  138. I really love the fact
  139. of these figures kind of melting and dripping.
  140. And they're very much like the interior of
  141. the Domino Sugar Factory
  142. which is also still dripping,
  143. still producing molasses from its interior,
  144. still sort of weeping this substance.
  145. The mammy,
  146. although she's bent over in this gesture of,
  147. sort of, supplication,
  148. I don't feel like she's there to be taken,
  149. or satisfied,
  150. or abused in any way.
  151. She's sort of withholding.
  152. I don't want to make her into
  153. a non-sexual caretaker of the city.
  154. She's powerful because she is so
  155. kind of iconic in a way.
  156. And she is so monumental and so unexpected.
  157. If I've done the job well,
  158. then she gains her power
  159. by upsetting expectations one after the other.
  160. I think it's very important to look back.
  161. I don't think we do it often enough.
  162. I think sometimes looking back leads to, kind
  163. depression and stasis,
  164. which isn't good.
  165. But, looking forward without any kind of
  166. deep, historical feeling of connectedness--
  167. it's no good either.