It’s my birthday. Not Living Sea Sculpture’s birthday, Colleen Flanigan’s. What did I wish for? I wished that I would continue to only pay attention to signs of love and stay wide open to all the good around, and that the Living Sea Sculpture in Mexico would be installed.
First wish is totally happening! Second wish is on its way. I’ve been communicating with individuals and people in organizations every day as I intuit and research who to reach out to next to clear the path into the sea for ZOE (previously titled DNA Dividing). MUSA has a new executive director who has offered some assistance, and the founders of the underwater museum were supposed to be meeting last week to add “more efforts.” The Mexican Consulate in New York, the Tourism Board, people who know people in Akumal and Cancun, Oceanus in Chetumal, The Nature Conservancy, The World Bank,…I am reaching out to complete this exciting chapter for coral colonies that has been filled with politics and slow steps towards economic, social, and ecological transformation.
Which makes me jump to yesterday. I went on a birthday art outing with a friend to see Kara Walker’s, “a Subtlety,” or “The Marvelous Sugar Baby,” made of sugar at the soon to be demolished Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
"a Subtlety" by Kara Walker. Presented by Creative Time at the Domino Sugar Factory.
This political, visual homage to mistreated humans is poignant to our present day humanitarian desire to create healthier relationships with other species and our living environment. It might seem like a stretch, but for me and many others who want to restore dying ecosystems and think big picture long term, abuse and disrespect of a group of people in many ways is similar to abuse and disrespect of other species and natural resources; both are perpetuated by the greed and pervasive ignorance of “authority.”
Kara Walker's installation at the Domino Sugar Factory
At this free exhibit, open through July 6th on Fridays and weekends, thousands are flocking to see the sculptural sugar interpretations of people who were repressed and treated as commodities by others lording over them with calculating, callous power. This large-scale public work would have been impossible to imagine as something to be accepted, let alone publicly and culturally honored, 40 years ago. Change happens fast. Change happens slowly.
Kara describes the work:
“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.”
For the sake of metaphor, we can insert other species into context as the “artisans”: those who are not being seen for their worth. With so much red tape and destructive human forces killing without conscience or logic, when in the 21st century will society reach critical momentum to recognize ourselves in other living beings, and then take it a step further, and make decisions with their well-being in mind? Steps forward and steps back, all along the winding path there are those who operate from places of love, trust, and ambitious equality.
Many artists fall into that lump. Art emerges from imagination linking concepts, emotions, skills, and materials. It is largely underestimated and undervalued in all its forms, even though it is the medium that can reveal multitudes of meaning and guidance because its essence is sensing, “seeing,” and expressing with impact.
Through this carefully planned, impressive construction, Kara Walker molded a story of a painful history of repression and offered a unique form of care and respect. Witnessing the sugar – it was saying a lot in silence – I was not so subtly reminded of where we come from, and where we can go if we choose. I felt levity in the space, possibly because so many of us never knew this specific era personally, and possibly because of all the white light and visitors. I was in awe at her monumental work built from our sweetener to shed light on a dark secret.
"a Subtlety" by Kara Walker at the Domino Sugar Factory, 2014