The Amazing Artist Behind New York’s Sugar Sphinx

This week, renowned visual artist Kara Walker has created a 75-foot sphinx out of sugar, and installed it in the ruins of the old Domino sugar factory in New York City. The piece is cleverly titled, “A Subtlety or The Marvelous Sugar Baby.

Walker is best known for her elaborate meditations on America’s slave trade – her silhouette pieces, (like “My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love”) often display quite disturbing images of violence, but through the crafty lens of cut-out materials. And if you’re not a fan already, Walker’s truly a lady artist to know: something of a wunderkind in the art world, her pieces first gained attention when the artist had barely left graduate school. Her work functions with many layers in mind – it’s all about history meeting craftsmanship meeting femininity meeting irony. In this way, Walker’s quite demanding of her viewers’ intelligence. The artist’s then four-year-old daughter once referred to her mother’s style as “mean art,” according to a profile of Walker in the New York Times.

Walker’s latest sculpture — her first large-scale public project —is “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,” she writes on the Creative Time website.

While Walker’s most famous murals and sculptures are scarcely for the faint of heart, they are important to pay attention to. As it’s typically aggressive and difficult to ignore, so are a lot of the huge cultural issues we so often try to sugar-coat (pun intended) in this country.

The exhibition, commissioned by Creative Time, opens to the public on May 10th and runs through July 6th. You can visit the lady on Fridays between 4pm and 8pm, and on weekends between 12pm and 6pm.  Kara Walker will also be hosting a live panel discussion on May 20th at 7pm at the NYPL. You can find more details on the Creative Time site.