Candy Christmas : Sweet Oil Paintings by Will Cotton

will cotton gingerbread house oil paintings

Born in Massachusetts and now working out of New York, artist Will Cotton is known for his dreamy and delectable paintings whose landscapes consist of cotton candy clouds, gingerbread houses, candy forests, chocolate rivers and melting ice cream. Some of these landscapes are inhabited by nude or nearly nude pinup-style models as well as celebrities such as Katy Perry and Elle Fanning. But for today’s post, it’s all about his candy canes and gingerbread. 24 paintings of them!

Will Cotton Paintings of Gingerbread Houses

In 1996, Cotton began to develop an iconography in which the landscape itself became an object of desire. The paintings often feature scenery made up entirely of pastries, candy and melting ice cream. He creates elaborate maquettes of these settings from real baked goods made in his Manhattan studio as a visual source for the final works.

Will Cotton at work in his New York studio

Since about 2002, nude or nearly nude pinup-style models have occasionally populated these candy-land scenes. As in the past, the works project a tactile indulgence in fanciful glut.[source] The female characters are icons of indulgence and languor, reflecting the feel of the landscape itself. “These paintings are all about a very specific place,” says Cotton, “It’s a utopia where all desire is fulfilled all the time, meaning ultimately that there can be no desire, as there is no desire without lack.”[source]

Trailer, 1998, oil on canvas, 59 x 116 inches
Tracks, 1998, oil on canvas, 59 x 116 inches
Cabin, 1998, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches
White Christmas, 1999, oil on linen, 36 x 48 inches
Candy House, 1999, oil on canvas, 60 x 40 inches
Cracked House, 1999, oil on linen, 75 x 75 inches
Snow, 1999, oil on linen, 70 1_2 x 54 inches
Flood, 2000, oil on linen, 80 x 104 inches

“…Cotton works from models set up in his studio. He has taken cooking classes to better fabricate these painstaking miniature worlds. Gingerbread is a relatively strong material, but there is a lifespan to it as well as the candy and the icing that holds it all together. The decay of a single gingerbread house can be read across several paintings where vantage points shift and fogs descend.

The studio maquette for Flooded, 2001, photo: Artnet

The use of models encourages this sort of treatment, lends the paintings all sorts of details and lighting effects that would be difficult to achieve from merely fantasizing about the subject. For all of their dreaminess, the painting process is more technical than whimsical. The structural logic of gingerbread assembly is carefully abided to.” (source)

Swept Away, 2000, oil on linen, 68 x 80 inches
Churro Cabin, 2001, oil on linen, 75 x 100 inches
Peppermint Hideaway, 2001, oil on linen, 68 x 80 inches
Pudding Flood, 2003, oil on linen, 48 x 80 inches
“Forest” 2003, Oil on linen, 60 x 70″
Chalet, 2003, oil on linen, 70 x 80 inches
Relic, 2007, oil on linen, 65 x 50 inches
The Vast Structure of Recollection, 2007, oil on linen, 96 x 72 inches
The Consummation of Empire, 2008, oil on linen, 84 x 56 inches
Ghost, 2008, oil on linen, 72 x 48 inches
Fog, 2008, Oil on linen, 72 x 96 inches
Eutopia, 2008, oil on linen, 72 x 60 inches
Alpine Ruin, 2008, oil on linen, 60 x 48 inches
Monument, 2009, oil on linen, 72 x 84 inches
Nut House, 2012, oil on linen, 82 x 96 inches
Ruin, 2012, oil on linen, 34 x 24 inches

and shown at top, cropped:

Modern Times, 2015, oil on linen, 60 x 96 inches

Will Cotton 
Will Cotton Art Books