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Betsey Johnson

Sugar Tits.

“Hey there, sugar tits!” I once heard a stranger call to me as I was passing by Port Authority. This minute altercation was quite memorable, because it bestowed upon me a certain faith in mankind with this chivalrous and charming act. I mean, just when I didn’t think gentlemen existed anymore, here was this perfect stranger simultaneously letting me know that he thought I was sweet while contemplating my barely-there bosom. I’m additionally fond of this phrase as I do believe that is what Mel Gibson called to the female police officer during his infamous, inebriated tirade and arrest.


My Betsey Johnson Ice Cream bag that was a hit, as well as thematic!


Patrick and I breaking the law

Little did I know this gentleman caller was also a witty fortune teller, foreshadowing to what would inevitably be. This past weekend, accompanied by great friends as all fun excursions should be, I ventured out to Brooklyn to the old Domino Sugar Factory (which will soon be demolished to make way for prime real estate) for Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” installation. The title was quite oxymoronic, since the thousands of people in line to view the piece were demonstrative of how forthright it was.




Walking up to the entrance, you pass the deteriorating exterior, which with the peeling layers of paint had a rough, beauteous texture to it. As you meander inside the building, the senses awaken rather immediately as the fog of sugar cooking smacks your face and your shoes stick to the dampened sugary floors. In a distance, you can see the monstrous sphinx of a woman. Leading up to the large lady, many semi-disturbing, yet captivating, mini statues of children laboring were withstanding after a torrential rainstorm the night before. Some didn’t survive Mother Nature’s will that probably poured into the old building’s many crevices, turning into melted, poetic puddles of molasses.



The sphinx itself is shocking in its enormous stature as well as its rawness. Made out of sugar and completely naked, there is an absolute vulnerability to the woman, as she is exposed to the world. Now, there were mainly two types of people attending the exhibit – the first being the true art aficionados, truly taking in the cultural symbolism of everything Kara Walker created. The second group being the selfie generation, immaturely taking rather tasteless, yet humoristic photos next to the topless Sugar Baby. I witnessed, at moments, clashes between the two, as two Australian tourists were mid licking boob simulation getting scolded by two very serious African women, offended by the men’s lack of sensitivity. The men retaliated with “art is how you interpret it!” The women made it known they found their interpretation to be appalling and disgusting.




This young guy was so fixated with my bag he engaged in a literal tug-of-war with me, much to the chagrin of his mother.(I am wearing a vintage dress and sunglasses, Soludos shoes, a Betsey Johnson bag and DIY flower hairpins)



Where was I to be categorized in these groups? Admittedly somewhere in the middle. I loved how Kara Walker rudely woke us up to the unbearable struggles and sexual exploitation endured, that unfortunately continue to this very modern day, by designing a juxtaposition of size and the different states of the very material utilized in the refining plant – sugarcane. Every single sense is utilized while going through. Was I immune to the questionable and humorous pictures being snapped and the reality that there were ginormous breasts and vagina in my face? Absolutely not, I am human and I most certainly giggled. However, I appreciated everything I saw, every way I witnessed people viewing the piece and every detail Kara Walker was conveying through her art.


Oh, child. You will forever be amazed, excited, confused and bewildered.

Returning back to the sunshine of the day, I felt that the biggest spectacle of all was the visitors themselves. It was a porthole to a social, behavioral experiment – a looking glass to the world we are living in today and maybe how it hasn’t changed very much over the years. Whatever way we viewed and interpreted “A Subtlety” was hardly subtle, it was on grandiose display. And yet, despite our differences, we all walked out with the same sticky shoes.


My very first NYC bike ride, particularly over the Williamsburg Bridge and the Domino Sugar Factory in the distance.


(Photography by Patrick Kendall and Ricky Alas)

Posted by Olga Turka at 2014/07/17 10:53 AM No Comments
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