It was 1996 and artist Will Cotton was painting bunnies from Trix cereal and Nestlé’s Quik, among other characters from the pantheon of popular culture, when a new concept from his childhood crept into his consciousness:
“Everything was made of sweets,” he says of his favorite board game. “It’s all pleasure and indulgence all the time.”
And so was born a new series of paintings that pose two questions. First, what would it be like to live in a place like Candyland? And second, what would the people who lived there look like?
“I didn’t think it would be a desirable outcome,” he says. “I like to pose the question, but I don’t want to answer it”
Each model wears the real thing, including crowns, tiaras and headpieces made of sweets like cupcakes, lollipops and ribbon candy. Some lie among strategically placed piles of cotton candy, while others are covered in creampuffs. Architecturally, he’s developed houses of gingerbread and peanut brittle and even sugar-waffled mobile homes.
All of it’s real. He’s found a way to call it his own, learning to bake and to make mountains of cake with lollipop forests. He sets up sculptures on a tabletop at eye level. “I always build the scene, and then paint the picture of it,” he says.
Cotton works out of a 3,000 square-foot studio in Tribeca, complete with a shower. It comes in handy as a set for models, who, covered in ice cream and cotton candy, might want to clean up after their sittings.
“It’s the real thing,” he says. “It’s about desire, pleasure and indulgence.”
And Cotton candy.
His new, 172-page book of paintings is due out from Rizzoli on Friday, Nov. 4.
For more information, go to http://www.rizzoliusa.com/book.php?isbn=9780847836673