Images of delicate sugar-constructed sculptures and models fill the entire Zoom screen as artist Andrea Chung describes her work on the history of migration, servitude and commerce throughout the Caribbean. This past Friday, Chung Zoomed in from San Diego to talk to Andover students at a climate cafe, exploring art and environmental racism within her artwork. According to Chung, environmental justice is also on the forefront of many of her pieces, as she studies the history of sugar production and consequent history of colonizers and colonization.
“I’m interested in food waves and how you can track migration patterns through food. I think from there it leads to looking at larger issues like colonialism, and how that has impacted specifically the land, reconstructing the way the Carribean looks. A lot of what you see is not natural to the island, but it’s perceived that way, because it’s been built to be the Garden of Eden for white foreigners to come in and explore… so it brings on larger issues that are still prominent to the things that are happening there now,” said Chung.
According to event attendee, member of Student Advocates for Climate Awareness, and discussion facilitator Alice Fan ’23, Chung’s use of sugar was eye-catching and addressed important social issues in a new way.
“I think [the use of sugar] is really creative. It’s unique. Sugar was a symbol for so much more than just the food… I feel like the incorporation of new media makes the art more meaningful…
I think that the whole point of addressing social issues with art was something that I hadn’t [considered] before. I knew in theory what it was, but it was cool to see [examples] of it in action,” said Fan.
Through the physical use of sugar in her art, Chung acknowledged the inevitable erosion in many of her pieces. However, she chooses to embrace the natural lifecycle of her art and believes in the use of ephemeral materials and its impermanence.
“With the sugar pieces, I’ve had people ask me ‘how do you even sell that’ and I [respond] ‘do you even care what the work is about or do you just want to possess it?’ I [think] this idea of needing to own something is [a little problematic]… I think [my artwork] is sort of my middle finger to the art world. I don’t want you to be able to own everything, and I like that it will self-destruct on its own and that’s good. Culture is constantly evolving, so why can’t my work continue to evolve? You can’t preserve everything forever,” said Chung.
While Chung’s talk educated her audience on social justice issues through her artwork, attendee Sakina Cotton ’24 added that the time stamp on the pieces added a sense of urgency to the messages they conveyed. Cotton noted that Chung’s artwork is centered in her desire for change.
“[Chung] enjoys letting art take its course and having it fade away. I thought that was really interesting because people usually try to educate as much as they can for as long as they can, but I feel like her art applies a sense of urgency. You have to go see while it lasts, and see the different stages that it takes,” said Cotton.