The Making of Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx

Kara Walker (with her daughter) applies powdered sugar to a sculpture at the Domino Sugar factory, Brooklyn, NY, 2014. Production still from the series Exclusive. © Art21, Inc. 2014. Cinematographer: Ian Forster.

Kara Walker (with her daughter) applies powdered sugar to a sculpture at the Domino Sugar factory, Brooklyn, NY, 2014. Production still from the series Exclusive. © Art21, Inc. 2014. Cinematographer: Ian Forster.

“I don’t think that my work is actually effectively dealing with history. I think of my work as subsumed by history or consumed by history.”  —Kara Walker

Today’s Exclusive provides an in-depth look at the creation of Kara Walker’s monumental public project, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby (2014), at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, NY. Seated in her Manhattan studio, Walker explains how the molasses-covered space, along with her extensive research into the history of sugar, inspired her to create a colossal sugar-coated sphinx, as well as a series of life-sized, sugar and resin boy figurines. A team of artists and fabricators are shown constructing and coating the sphinx, which, as Walker says, gains its power by “upsetting expectations, one after the other.” Commissioned by Creative Time, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby is the first large-scale public project by Walker who is best known for her cut paper silhouette installations, drawings, and watercolors. A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby is on view until July 6, 2014. Thereafter, the factory will be demolished to make way for condominiums.

Exclusive is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.

CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interviewer: Ian Forster. Camera: Ian Forster, Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Sound: Nicole J. Caruth, Wesley Miller & Ava Wiland. Editor: Morgan Riles. Music: Pinch Music. Artwork Courtesy: Kara Walker & Creative Time. Special Thanks: Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Theme Music: Peter Foley.

Contributor
Ian Forster is ART21's associate producer. He joined the staff in October 2009, first working on ART21 William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible and subsequently ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 6. In addition to his work on ART21′s broadcast programming for PBS, Forster oversees the Web video series ART21 Exclusive and ART21 Artist to Artist and is deeply involved with ART21 New York Close Up.
  1. Pingback: Pawtrition | → Via art21.org: Making a Sugar Sphinx

  2. James Jones says:

    Kara Walker is an artist that admittedly; I’ve had a sort of love / hate relationship for years. She is without question controversial, erotic, excessive and derisive by the nature of her subject matter. In addition; she is also brave, challenging, a contemporary force and exquisitely talented by virtue of study, work ethic and execution of her product. This extraordinary piece (that I’ve only seen through reproduction) is a work that adds a new chapter to a great body of existing work; a body of work that is already colossal. It adds to her mystique and evolving legacy. She is a mid-career artist whose achievements and star continues to rise. Sadly this work is temporary. Then too is the nature of ultimately all things. The work will be etched in it’s viewers minds as Ms. Walker remains ever enigmatic.

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