Lucia Hierro. Can I Borrow a Cup of Sugar, 2020. Digital print on brushed suede, foam, packing peanuts. 39 × 38 × 32 inches.
Lucia Hierro’s witty, playful, and audacious work employs Latinx and Caribbean vernaculars, exploring the relationships between identity, objects, and consumption. Born and raised in Washington Heights in New York to a Dominican family, Hierro is known for large-scale soft sculptures of everyday objects and food commonly found in bodegas—small stores that sell Latin American products, lottery tickets, and other goods. Using felt and digital printing techniques, she recreates images of empanadas, Goya products, and pastelitos, along with American products, highlighting the objects that her community consumes. Challenging the definition of traditional, hard sculpture, Hierro borrows the aesthetic language of Pop Art and engages with its cynical humor. Reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg’s The Store (1981), Hierro’s work centers on the slippery line between art and commodity, using her own Latinx Caribbean language to assert her role within this discourse.
Hierro explores commodity culture using ethnically specific motifs while illustrating human attachments to objects. Along with Pop Art, her artistic approach is influenced by master puppeteers Jim Henson and Frank Oz, creators of The Muppet Show. By depicting her objects in a soft and monumental manner, Hierro provides a degree of animation to her sculptures. Hierro portrays contemporary consumption and how objects in our daily life become representative of our culture and state of being.
Can I Borrow a Cup of Sugar (2020), is a monumental sculpture of a bag of Domino sugar. Using brushed suede and digital printing techniques, the work is an oversized representation of this everyday object. The title suggests a typical gesture within Latinx communities, which are known for neighborhood dynamics in which it is common for neighbors to ask to borrow from each other when needed. At first glance, the sculpture comes across as humorous and lively, a fun approach to the portrayal of sugar—a substance that most of us love or dislike for affecting our health. At the same time, sugar bears political, economic, and social dimensions that have greatly affected the modern world. Sugar was the primary product of slavery in the Caribbean, and has become one of the main food industries in the contemporary world. Lingering beneath Hierro’s fun and lively oversized representation of the sugar bag are the political implications that this product has had throughout its history.