Fine Arts Maters student sculpts with sugar despite her allergies
Kyra Papé, a Fine Arts Master’s student at Wits, is allergic to the element she uses to create her artwork. The 23-year-old has been sculpting with sugar for six years despite this.
Papé, who was born allergic to milk and the sugar within milk, says that over time the allergy developed into a complete sugar allergy. Apart from this Papé says she has many allergies and is lactose, glucose and fructose intolerant meaning that she cannot consume sugar, dairy, glucose or sulphur.
“I have no control over how my body reacts to sugar,” she says. “Allergies intrigue me. The idea of pushing the boundaries of the body is interesting.”
The process of creating her sculptures includes melting the sugar at high temperatures until the water evaporates and using the result along with other material such as steel and soap to create sculptures. As a precautionary measure, she works with a full-body mask and apron.
Papé says, “Once the sugar is in this burnt state it chooses when it will stop melting,” meaning that the coating over some pieces may dry after three years while others dry in two months. This makes her relationship with the substance “ironic”, as “in an attempt to control sugar it does as it pleases anyway”.
Papé says that her art process is “circular and progressive, meaning that one piece inspires and generates the other”. She collects the excess sugar which drips from the sculptures on paper and makes copies of these thereafter, creating pieces in print format. This printout helps to inspire the next sculpture according to Papé.
Papé says she does not tell those who interact with her art about her allergy because she does not want that to overpower the way people experience her pieces.
“People experience art differently,” she says, adding that she does not want people to pity her when interacting with her work. She would like people to develop their own ideas about what her pieces are and what they mean.
The next step for Papé is having her work up at the Turbine Art Fair in July.