For 22 years, Kara Walker’s work has probed the ugly issues of race, colonialism and power. But she’s never done something quite like A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby: a monumental, sugar-coated sculpture of a naked African-American woman, crouching forward sphinx-like in a former Domino Sugar warehouse, her labia peeking out between her toes.
Around her, small molasses-drenched child-sculptures dot the cavernous interior. And fragrant molasses drips grimly down brick walls like slowly congealing blood, lending extra poignancy to the work’s subtitle: “an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.”
To Walker, the factory is a space “loaded with histories and questions”— so we asked some fellow gazers what sort of questions and answers the work provoked in them. Clicked through the slideshow for their reactions.