NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 103

I have to concur with Brenda Marie Osbey’s observation that much like babes-in arms, “we are tertiary consumers of a product cultivated for profit elsewher… we are witness to an art economy not only controlled by, but marketed and pitched by, to, and for white consumption… the fact that we visit gallery spaces, convene panels on, discuss, critique, and write about such work may well give the semblance and allure of critical insight and creative intellectual engagement. Somehow, it smacks to me of a lot of tette-a-suc (Sugar Tit).” I wonder what story would be invented for the American public if a favorite icon like the Statute of Liberty were replicated as a nude, 2-Story sensuous Siren of the Sea, coated like a Tar Baby, triumphantly holding up a male organ by the testicles, her legs spread open seductively, inviting the hungry masses of the world to enter a cavernous vulva that appears like a mysterious Venus Fly Trap. End of story! BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE And, yet, on this final weekend, an aging docent for the exhibit who had spent 20 years toiling in the char house where mounds of unbleached sugar crystals burned in kilns at 140 degree temperatures, regrets that the factory will soon be razed to build luxury houses, demolishing even the curious installation, its place in the history of Sugar lost forever. The aging black docent, redolent of the plantation Slave’s remorse when the Master’s house was under siege, laments that if he were a rich man, he’d “put it downtown in a climate-controlled greenhouse… donate it to the city” as a monument to the story of “Sugar.” 101 When Norman Reid approached three white women engrossed in the Sugar Baby and asked what they thought was its significance, they summarily, without missing a beat, observed that the work was about the exploitation of women… (read white women). While the visitors to the exhibit seem completely in the dark about the significance of the iconography beyond their personal history or novelty of a cultural event, Clyde insists that the artist is well aware of the 130 year history of the slaves that produced the sugar from cane plantations throughout the diaspora to the sweat labor of the Domino Sugar refinery (and that the work has a peculiar resonance at least for the black viewers). But, then, how could the visitors know when the sign painted near the entrance — and obscured by the anticipated excitement of entering the mysterious inner-chamber — to the refinery reads: “Subtlety — or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, an homage to the unpaid and over-worked 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.”