Montreal artist Shelley Miller has taken the idea of ephemeral street art to a new level by creating elaborate murals made completely from sugar. Using a method much like a frosting tube and tip, the artist has created sweet colorful murals across the globe. The fragile pieces are at first durable, but then can wash away with the rain at a moment’s notice.
Using sugar cake icing, Miller replicates the images of historical Portuguese tiles, azulejo ceramic tiles, and even street art. Inspired by calligraphy, arabesques, ancient mosaics, mosque architecture, temples, and textile design, Miller gives the styles of these architectural elements new life reimagining them in a water-soluble medium.
Miller’s use of sugar goes beyond just the novelty of a using a confection in an outdoor art installation. The artist also uses sugar to draw parallels between the history of the sugar industry and its remnants. For an ongoing project in Brazil, the artist decorated several dilapidated buildings with faux-Portuguese tiles. Brazil, once a booming industry leader in the sugar industry, is now faced with extreme poverty in many areas and echoes of the slave labor that fueled the industry. Ironically, sugar is now considered a luxury in many of these areas, so local children have been known to break off samples of Miller’s art installations to nibble on them.
Millers azulejo style murals also reference the sugar industry, mainly its transport across the oceans, its history, and link to the slave trade. She has installed the sugar murals in several ports related to the sugar industry, in Brazil, Victoria, BC, and her native Montreal.
Miller’s usage of sugar is both innovative and historically relevant to the social aspects of big industry over the years, and it looks good enough to eat!