To say that visual
installation artist Kara Walker loves controversy and to rile people up is stating
challenges preconceived notions and ideas about black stereotypes and imagery with
very strong political and historical themes. And it’s no mistake that her works
can be very disturbing and uncomfortable to experience. But perhaps no work of
hers has caused more heated discussion, both pro and con and controversy, than her recent work entitled "A Subtlety, or
the Marvelous Sugar Baby."
sculpture made from 30 tons of sugar, it was on display in an abandoned Domino
Sugar Factory in Brooklyn this past summer. The work was a completely nude and
exposed “Mammy black woman sphinx," which Walker was quoted as saying that she created as “an homage to the unpaid and overworked women who refine sugar from sugar
cane to the sugar many of us consume everyday”.
say, the work caused a sensation and was praised as groundbreaking. But some people were offended by the work, while others saw it as a massive joke, mocking it, even bringing their children to see it and taking sexually
Many critics pointed out that the rude reaction the sculpture
got from visitors was clear evidence of the still constant disrespect and dehumanization of
the Black female body (I recall one
article by someone who had visited the exhibit and was so outraged by visitors’ reactions and ugly remarks that she literally
screamed at them, voicing her outrage at them, creating a scene).
again, no doubt that was Walker’s intention – to provoke and agitate and expose those
who failed to see what was her purpose. However, you may feel differently and
think that what Walker has done was an outrage and played straight into the stereotypes
of black women.
But what those
who visited the sculpture didn’t know was that Walker was also shooting a 30 minute
short film, called "An Audience," in which she chronicled the various reactions
of visitors on seeing "A Subtlety."
And now the
film has been completed and started screening this week at Sikkema Jenkins & Co, in New York, until
Below is a
five minute trailer for the film: