|Installation shot of Like Sugar at Skidmore College's Tang Teaching Museum|
photograph by Arthur Evans
Organized by the Tang's Malloy Curator Rachel Seligman and Skidmore English professor Sarah Goodwin, with input from three other Skidmore faculty members, Like Sugar may suffer from the too-many-cooks syndrome, as it attempts many diverse things. Is it about art? Of course. Food? Check. History? Global economics? Advertising? Health? All of the above.
Julia Jacquette, Two Tiered Cookie Platter, 1997
enamel on wood panel
I think the show makes plain just how conflicted we are as a society - and individually - about sugar. It's killing us, but we love it. Historically, the sugar trade drove the creation and growth of the horror of the slave trade. This is delved into through visceral works by Kara Walker and Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, and alluded to in historical and contemporary documentary photographs also in the exhibition. Even honey bees get some of the blame - or credit - from both the scientific perspective and the creative one, as a video piece in the show records an experiment demonstrating their preference for sugar, and three fascinating sculptures in the show are a collaboration between a human artist, Garnett Puett, and comb-making bee colonies.
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Clearly, we were all affected, and the impacts are still seen in the obesity and diabetes epidemics that plague the United States today. These diseases are explored in a display of public service graphics that attempt to scare people straight off the sugar track, and in photographs and paintings that simultaneously seduce and disgust.
Emily Eveleth, Big Pink, 2016, oil on canvas
All in all, Like Sugar may be overly ambitious, but it got that way for important reasons. More art exhibitions should make such efforts, even if falling short is almost inevitable.
And, while you're in the neighborhood, check out a first-rate three-person show at the Saratoga Arts Center. Passing Time, on view through June 15, features paintings, photographs, and sculptures by Paul Chapman, Harry Wirtz, and Rebecca Flis (respectively). In a happy coincidence, some of Flis's ingenious cast works are made of - you guessed it - sugar. I promise you will like.
|Rebecca Flis Ironscapes, cast iron, crushed red stone, steel perimeter|