Sugar Eats Sugar

Change of plan. Instead of still life photographs of sugary objects, I am going to cover a model entirely with sugar, and have them eat sugary food. Yes, it is going to be sugared skin. I experimented coating sugar on different materials, and while doing so, it suddenly hit me that this whole situation with sugar seems to be cannibalistic. Our body is full of sugar, yet we continuously crave and consume sugar. With artificial chemicals, especially high fructose corn syrup, psychologically, hunger never ends. It rolls on and on, until when we dissect our body and when we take a close look at our meals, all you see is sugar. I came to a conclusion that in simplification, sugar eating sugar.

I am also changing the aesthetic of this project. There is no need to photograph sugar eerily or unappetizing through dramatic lighting. Dark field is one way to do, but I feel I was very stuck to this style that it actually became a roadblock. I couldn’t go further than anything else except for a simple still life, and it narrowed my perspective so much. Another way to create same atmosphere without the use of dramatic light is using super neon colors. These colors can be so disturbing to look at, yet still remain appealing to our eyes.

I found this upon tumbling through internet and talking to people, which is always helps me building stronger idea. A series of artworks which energized my clogged creativity was Beverly Fishman’s “Big Pharma” (this is on exhibition at CCAD Contemporary Art Space – totally worth checking out if you are around Columbu, OH). Her use of extreme neon colors vibrates great power, but collectively creates uncomfortable intimacy. I immediately then knew that I was trying to create an image of sugar that is disturbing and distressing. Not necessary the dark side of sugar, but definitely unpleasant and bothersome. It was also lovely to see that even though her piece is a different medium compared to what I do, colors are the common tool we use to construct an artwork.

And so here are image that I made to test appropriate color that I am going to use. I loved that many people who I showed to found it beautiful yet also disturbing.

Sketches are Finally Here

So far I am text heavy on this blog. The reason why it is this way is because, I accidentally (stupidly) forgot to include my sketches in the post. What a great way for visual person to talk about their work verbally… Although my sketches are also incomprehensible, so I am not sure if either is working.

As I explained in the first post (hyperlink), each food is going to be empty in the inside, and instead sugar rushes out of it. Some may be in similar (in fact, very much alike) composition due to their natural form. Cupcakes and muffin is an example of something I would like them to be in different shape as possible.

Sweet Tooth

Hunger is what mainly drives us to eat. It’s a S.O.S. signal that is sent from our body to our brain. Because of hunger, we are able to refill the empty stomach with nutritional energy, and off we go to work.

How about sweet tooth? When we have it, all we want in our mouth is over exaggerated sweetened flavor. It could be anything from chocolate, candies, cakes, donuts, and sweet beverage…simply told, it just has to have lots of sugar inside. On top of that, the irrespirable temptation is such a challenge to avoid.

I have a very bad sweet tooth, and it happens almost every single week. Even when I am full, a sudden crave for sugar happens. But now that I have done my research on sugar, after eating sweets, I instantly fall into a never-ending hold of regret and self-shame.

So what made me change my perspective? Here is what I found out:

When we consume sugar, it is immediately converted into fat, and is later stored in the body as an extra energy source. Back when humans were hunters and gatherers, it was crucial to have plenty of energy to survive through the harsh environments (just think about no internet, no internet shopping, no car, no supermarkets, and no houses). In particular, hunting and thinking (or using brain) required large energy compared to other primates. To amplify energy sources, sugar was the perfect fit in this type of lifestyle. And here comes the reason why we crave sugar. At the hunters and gatherers time, sugar was found within berries and honey, but they were very rare consumption.

Over the course of history, our lifestyle has changed significantly. We no longer travel entirely by foot, carry around heavy equipment, and above all, hunt. Everything is at our disposal, easily accessed through various transportations. The need to store extra energy as fat is needless, yet our body naturally continues to do so. Now, sugars are empty calories. It provides very little use as nutrients except for solid fats. Without intense exercises to burn the stored fats, it simply accumulates in our body. Scientists and their researches say that over consumption of sugar has high probability of health troubles, such as diabetes and heart problems.

Not only is the lifestyle becoming an issue, but also is the accessibility of sugar around us. Sugar is not a rare energy source like it used to be in the hunters and gatherers age. It is available anywhere, anytime, and in any form that accommodates people’s various preferences. Even chocolates come in different shapes and levels of cacao. Finding sweets and pastries only takes few minutes of car ride to grocery stores, cafes, fast food restaurants, or even the closest convenience stores.

Things change throughout time, but certain factors do not. Sugar conversion facilitated by our body is one activity that has remained constant. Sugar availability is one aspect that altered our lifestyle incredibly. Now that I look around my surroundings closely, it really is astounding how much sugar we are enclosed by. Surprisingly, there are sugars even in tomato ketchup! I hope to express concerns about sugar, as well as my personal struggle with sugar consumption, through my photographs.

New Project: Sugar

This semester, I am going to do honors special project. To explain about the project briefly, honors students are required to do two independent studies, and this special project is one of them. The project has to be proposed and approved beforehand. I like this structure, especially because it allows the students to construct a project from scratch, giving us the experience outside of classroom.

The project I am going to work on is a visual analysis of American food culture. Every time I move to a new place, I try out local products and cuisines to understand the culture better. In the case of Columbus, and the United States in general, I began to recognize the amount of sugar hidden in the food here. From cookies, cupcakes, muffins, chocolates, and to pop/soda, they sit in the grocery store luring your eyes with their bright neon color packages. I tried to resist them, but sadly failed to do so. The temptation is so hard to resist!

It is difficult to avoid them because they are everywhere around us. Are you craving some chocolates? Simply hop on your car, drive to your closest grocery shop, and voila, now you have 10 different kinds of chocolates to choose from. The availability of these sweets at an affordable cost allows everyone to purchase and consume the sugars anytime, anywhere.

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Hot chocolate is one of the sweet drinks that is everywhere…oh, such a perfect drink in the winter!

Based on my observation, I am going to create a series of photographs about sugar consumption. Everything is yet to be shot, so this is going to be a wordy explanation of the vision:

Each photograph stages different kinds of sugar filled food, such as sweets, pastries, and soft drinks (or sodas), and they are all going to be lit in chiaroscuro. The background is going to be dark field, and the foreground brightly lit in a similar manner as Willem Kalf and Jen Weenix’s paintings. I am also planning a wide shot that includes all the sugary food.

In addition to this, all sugar filled food is going to be empty in the inside to reflect the empty calories. Some will be cut in half to show the inside, where else others will simply appear with nothing in the core. The appearance of the food is going to depend on its shape and form. Next to each food is also going to be a small mountain of sugar, as if it came straight out from the empty area of the food.

I will be documenting the process on this blog; stay tuned!