(American, born 1965)
oil on linen, 60 x 72 inches
Artwork courtesy of the Artist and Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Using pastries, cookies and candies of his own confection, Will Cotton constructs miniature models of fantasy landscapes complete with candy cane trees, syrup waterfalls, and gingerbread houses. These sugary dioramas serve as models for large-scale paintings such as Pastoral.
Commissioned by Hallmark, this picture is one in a series of works by Cotton that were inspired by the nineteenth century landscape paintings of Thomas Cole, particularly his 1830s series titled The Course of Empire. Those works chronicle the rise and fall of a fictional civilization, a subject that served as a cautionary tale for the young United States of America. Pastoral is Cotton’s modern update on Cole’s vision of a serene land not yet touched by the excesses that can lead to self-destruction.
Cotton’s delectable world whets our appetite, arousing deep-seated desires. Yet beneath their sugar-coated surfaces, his landscapes convey a morality as well. Even as we are tempted to consume more, we may also be reminded of the unhealthy consequences of such overindulgence.
I had painted landscapes in the past, but always from nature. Suddenly I saw a way to create an entirely new reality. With sweets as the fabric of this new universe, I found that I could now make references within the landscape genre to the issues of temptation, indulgence and excess that had long been part of my work. . . I want my pictures to look very real, to look so convincing that the viewer can be won over by the artifice and believe they have seen a new real place.
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