If you've been one of the millions who have viewed Katy Perry's “California Gurls” video on YouTube with its Candyland-inspired set of life-size gummy bears and cupcake bikini tops, you've already seen the work of Will Cotton, the artistic director of the video. Cotton's first music video gig may have earned him a sweet spot among Pop music fans, but it's still the New York City-based painter's two-dimensional works that are the core of his work. You can his most recent paintings at the Michael Kohn Gallery in West Hollywood beginning this Saturday, January 15th through February 26th, with a reception this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. that is open to the public.
Cotton has long painted high-sucrose landscapes built out of various candies and chocolates, often with female nudes incorporated among the marshmallows. But these new works feature models wearing their candy dreams in the form of foil cupcakes wrapper dresses, cotton candy skirts and cake hats. Or in the case of Perry, wearing a strategically-placed cotton candy cloud loincloth on her otherwise naked body for her album cover (see the painting after the jump).
Those cotton candy clouds and ribbon candy hats aren't literally figments of his imagination, but three-dimensional pieces that Cotton created as props before painting the portraits with the help of Dominique Ansel, pastry chef at Restaurant Daniel. Per a recent Food and Wine profile, Cotton, an avid home baker, says he envisioned making the ribbon candy and chocolate towers himself, but after taking a candy-making class decided it was wise to enlist the help of a professional.
As for how Cotton's work wound up in video format, in this how-we-made-it “California Gurls” video, Perry says she met the artist shortly after emailing him to say she admired his work and was interested in buying a painting. “How about being in one of my paintings?,” was reportedly his response.
The singer said she had a better idea. An album cover painting and a sugary Candyland-inspired video that has so much bling, it makes Snoop Dogg, who played the “evil Sugar Daddy” ruler of “Candy-fornia,” look like a deflated gummy bear. Not a bad Cotton candy payoff from a blind email.