"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

New episode from Art21’s Exclusive series: An in-depth look at the creation of Kara Walker’s monumental public project for Creative Time, A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby (2014), at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, NY.

WATCH: Kara Walker: “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby”

IMAGES: Production stills from the Art21 Exclusive episode, Kara Walker: “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby”. © Art21, Inc. 2014.


She is right.

I went to see this and wasn’t prepared for the amount of random inexplicable whiteness in the crowd. Here I am thinking only black folks concerned with this will be viewing this and it was a whooooooole lot of white folks. It only made me uncomfortable because I couldn’t figure out what would make them want to view it, what led them to it, and for that reason, I was positive the message would be but a whisper to them. Something they couldn’t understand at all.

Now I’m not sure what reaction she expected/wanted, but walking through the empty, haunting venue, I was annoyed that I couldn’t separate my viewing pleasure from the consuming white gaze. It was everywhere. I could barely take in the pieces of work because I was surrounded by jeering white people. Watching them consume these little black bodies and feel nothing like the sorrow that took me instantly. And then they were walking through the puddles of liquid sugar that was part of the art. Letting their children touch it. But in a way they became part of the artwork. It was like a presentation on the white gaze and their consumption of PoC.

Anywho, that shit was hard for me. I’m telling you old white couples stood by the grand ass of the mammy sphinx and smiles arm-in-arm for photos. SMILED. Hee-haw, a big ol’ butt y’all. Like the irony hurt. It hurt. Probably don’t even know what a mammy is. So yeah, the work isn’t critical of history is a sense that these oblivious people learn something. It’s kind of a product of history, or an example.

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