No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.
- Ingmar Bergman

June 3, 2014

Kara Walker -- "A Sublety" Exhibit

Filmmaker about Town --- what I film when out and about

Deteriorating factories have always fascinated me.  Perhaps it's because I grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the steel industry, once a strong factor in the economic incline of this country,  rot into ruin leaving behind dreams of economic stability and promising futures.

I've been looking at the Domino Sugar Factory sign from across the river for at least 15 years now, and during this time my curiosity about the space never died.  Domino Sugar was a staple in my family's household, but, as a child, it  never occurred to me how it arrived on a supermarket shelf.  I only watched my parents buy it and store it in our food closet.

Kara Walker's choice of sculpture material in her poignant exhibit "A Sublety" perfectly tells the story of how sugar was brought into this country -- through the sweat, toil, and blood of slave labor.

Sugar, resin and molasses were the materials she chose to create her sculptures.  Some were made with 100% sugar while others with resin and molasses.  Those made from 100% sugar are quickly deteriorating due to the climate inside of the factory.  As they deteriorate, pieces crash onto the floor. These pieces are then placed in the baskets being held by the sculptures that remain.

Towards the back of the space is the ultimate homage to the horrors of sugar production -- a sphinx sculpture made of 3-4 tons of white sugar.

The irony of sweet sugar being cultivated off of the backs of slaves who lost hands, arms, their lives, not to mention other heinous acts done in order to satisfy society's sweet tooth, resonates throughout the factory walls.  The walls are coated in dripping molasses and the floors are stained with molasses from some of the sculptures.   I managed to unstick my feet a few times after realizing I was stuck to the floor.

I highly recommend visiting the factory and taking in her exhibit.  It is up and running until July 6, but you may want to go as soon as possible because of the sculpture deterioration.

If you cannot visit, here's a taste of what hides behind the cold exterior of the Domino factory.  Shot with my trusty iPhone.

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