Cotton’s Candied Confections


Sweet is such a delightful

and complex word.

It represents everything

I want to paint about:

the pure,

the fragrant,

the desirable

and the dream of complete indulgence

in a perfect world.


The artist Will Cotton has been a fixture in the New York art world for almost a decade, using classical, Old Masters’ painting techniques to create completely modern confections. His subject matter may at first appear strange—he paints naked women cavorting in candy and cookies landscapes, a soft-core Candyland in soft pinks and whites—but it is ultimately irresistible.


But sweetness

taken to an extreme degree,

as it is in my pictures,

becomes cloying,

even repulsive

and that’s where it gets

interesting for me.


Candy for Cotton is what dark lush forests were for the 18th masters; an ideal of plenty and a site for temptation. There are no consequences depicted in these hedonistic scenes, but viewers know that outside the fantasy indulgence will have its price. Whether the models are his scenes’ protagonists, or just eye-candy, they never appear satiated or at peace. As we know, Candy may satisfy emotional needs and frivolous fancies, but in the end it only distracts the body from its genuine hungers, producing fat not fulfilment. Like the fatty foods he paints, Cotton’s paintings might appear light, but they are heavy with meaning.


The 44-year-old artist has long used an oven in his New York studio, making his own baked goods and then using them as models for his artwork, but he is about to take his pastry prowess to the public. For the next three Sunday afternoons, Cotton will be selling baked goods, including cookies, macaroons, and tarts, at new gallery Partners & Spade in downtown Manhattan.


“The difference between visiting my bakery and any other is essentially curatorial. It’s not just a random selection of sweets, it’s a collection of smells and tastes that have been important to me in my work, and have informed a lot of the imagery,” he explains.


“For me, making art is about telling a story and I’ve been feeling lately like there’s more to be said that’s not purely visual. Smells are so powerful and evocative, sometimes stronger than visual cues.” For the geographically advantaged, Cotton’s incriminatingly delicious art can be sampled at 40 Great Jones Street on November 8, 15, and 22.





~ by eaesthete on 11/06/09.

9 Responses to “Cotton’s Candied Confections”

  1. A hint of the 18th century in the sweetness, a little Fragonard and Boucher, with all the peaches and pinks.

  2. Fascinating. Maybe this would be Gretel-grows-up if the witch hadn’t been pushed into the oven. You give a fascinating moral to this tale in a place where there is such a malaise with regard to food. Incredible too, to give the trite an aesthetic presence that is not only conceptual.

  3. My senses have been assaulted in a most unexpected and inviting way. The luscious coolness of ice creams, meringues, spun cotton candy. The dreamland sensuality.

    We are gourmands, vacillating between the lovely stickiness of patisserie and the Feast of Venus.

  4. How interesting that the artist is baking- It does have a taste of the ironic. la

  5. I was there all day yesterday while he baked, and today I sampled the macaroons: salted caramel, pink peppercorn, ginger. The butterscotch cupcake. Next week I’ll take the chocolate raspberry cake. I’ll send you pictures! It’s a wonderland!

  6. Love it! To me it’s so Bouguereau meets Valley of the Dolls.

  7. […] was trained as a painter in France, which helps to explain his love of pastry à la française and Rococo stylings. In reference to his deceptively “sweet” tableaux, Cotton has said, “Sweet […]

  8. Come hear Will Cotton speak at Christie’s. The American Federation of Arts (AFA) is pleased to announce that Cotton is the first featured speaker in the 2010/11 ArtTalks series, to be held at Christie’s on Tuesday, September 21, at 6:30 p.m.

    The ArtTalk will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a wine reception hosted by Christie’s.

    For more information, please visit

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