Happy Place: Will Cotton Takes us to Candy Land
A few weeks ago we looked at Wayne Thiebaud who often uses food, particularly desserts, to express the nostalgia he feels for his past, and he presents it to us from an unusual and intriguing perspective in his paintings. Now we're exploring Will Cotton who also works with sweets - he builds maquettes of the candies and cakes to create landscapes in his studio which he then paints hyper-real pictures of - as his preferred means to provoke discussion. But the similarities end there, according to Cotton (and probably anyone else who is familiar with both painters): "Thiebaud's cake paintings are in the tradition of still life painting, mine are about landscape."
However, like Thiebaud's dessert works, his paintings are extremely appealing - who doesn't like the look, the taste, or at least the childhood association with sweets? - yet you sense immediately that there's far more happening on that canvas than simple representation.
I'd love to go on, but I've been reading about Cotton for three days now and can't quite sum him up in a neat little package after attempting to digest his interviews which each take him at completely different angles. So if you're curious to know more, have a look here, here and here. And do it while eating a giant ice cream sundae with a disgusting amount of whipped cream and a cherry on top.
Will Cotton, PASTORAL, 2009. Oil on linen, 60" x 72"
I never imagined I'd be talking about Katy Perry on The Swelle Life, but the result of her collaboration with Will Cotton is too good not to get into. If his paintings elicit an intense longing for a real-life Candy Land where you can wander around and have a nibble off a gingerbread house or a drink from a chocolate stream, then these videos from Perry's album Teenage Dream (2010) - Cotton painted the cover art for the CD and consulted on and built some of the video sets himself - are the closest you'll get to the real thing.
Before the video for the California Gurls single (which features Snoop Dogg wearing a suit covered in tiny pastel-coloured cupcakes) here's a look at how the packaging for the Teenage Dream CD was produced. It comes with a cotton candy scent and I love that the burly printing press operators were determined to find a way to get that sweet candy smell into the CD liner.
When the nut house inevitably calls to confirm my reservation, I hope it's this one:
Will Cotton, NUT HOUSE, 2007. Oil on linen, 36" x 40"
Will Cotton, ALPINE RUIN, 2008. Oil on linen, 60" x 84"
Will Cotton, CROQUEMBOUCHE, 2010. Oil on linen, 54" x 39"
Will Cotton's sculpture, clockwise from left: CAKE TOWER, 2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 48" x 16" x 16"; AGAINST NATURE, 2012, plaster, wood and pigment, 74" x 48" x 75"; SWEET, 2009-2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 46" x 38" x 38"
Will Cotton, CUSTARD CASCADE, 2001. Oil on linen, 108" x 144"
Will Cotton, CHALET, 2003. Oil on linen, 70" x 80"
Will Cotton, DEVIL'S FUDGE FALLS, 1999. Oil on linen, 96" x 144"
Will Cotton, FOREST, 2003. Oil on linen, 60" x 70"
Will Cotton, GHOST, 2007. Oil on linen, 72" x48"
Will Cotton, ICE CREAM CAVERN, 2003, Oil on linen, 70" x 80"
Will Cotton, PEPPERMINT HIDEAWAY, 2001. Oil on linen, 68" x 80"
Will Cotton, MONUMENT, 2009. Oil on linen, 72" x 84"
Will Cotton, SWEPT AWAY, 2000. Oil on linen, 68 x 80 inches
Will Cotton, "UNTITLED" 2003. Oil on linen, 80" x 120"
Big thanks to Julia!