City Spots

Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx

a SubtletyMolasses ChildDomino Sugar FactoryKara Walker Domino PieceKara Walker ArtDomino Sugar Factory TributeSugar SphynxDomino Sugar Factory SubtletyA Subtlety BacksideDomino Sugar Factory BrooklynIf you are around New York for memorial day weekend make sure to check out Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx, aka ‘A Subtlety’ at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg. I visited this sugar momma last weekend and the whole piece blew me away. Walking into the factory felt oddly eerie, as if we were walking back in time. I was overwhelmed by the open space of this massive building, 30,000 square feet to be exact. As you enter you can smell the molasses that once covered the floors; and was actually used to create these sculptured children. At the far right of the building lays this 35ft sphinx created from sugar! It’s incredible…the way the light hit her face made the sphinx look more like a sculpture made of stone than sugar! The photos don’t do it justice, so you should definitely check it out for yourself.

For more information about how this project came to be check out this interview. One of my favorite question and answer from the interview with Kara Walker was:

This space, the Domino Sugar Factory, has a storied history. This building is going to be torn down, and one of the things I think about is how the sphinx is kind of smirking. There is this quality where she is looking into the future, where this building won’t be here, and your piece won’t be here; there is this kind of erasure. Did you think about that when you were creating the piece, because you have lived in New York for quite some time? Has your New York changed? 

I have only lived here for 12 years, so I always feel like a newcomer. The erasure is this amazing, terrible part of the city, and there is something about this kind of acceptance. I feel like this piece would be kind of tragic if she wasn’t smirking. I want for her to dominate this place long after the building is gone, so somehow she becomes legend in this location, as does the building and as do many other parts of the city. It’s not necessarily landmark by plank but landmark by memory and by the re-telling of residents and visitors who bore witness to her arrival and departure.


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