Will Cotton’s “Cotton” Candy Land and other Works

Will Cotton takes on Pop Art with an even more Contemporary approach.

As has been noted for years, certain art movements become known for particular motifs, the Pre-Raphaelite’s appreciation for nature being a prime example. While not quite as respected as more traditional art genres, Pop Art also has its own set of themes. The strongest of these elements is a reinterpretation of kitsch, presenting it in an intentionally ironic way, that changes the interpretation to one of irony. The sense being that this is kitsch that knows full well that it is kitsch. The other theme is, of course, consumer culture, particularly high-sugar junk food like in Warhol’s infamous green Coke bottle paintings.

Will Cotton

Cotton Candy Clouds, 2004. Oil on linen, 75″ x 100″.

While Pop. Art as a form has declined in popularity in recent years as the culture has veered more towards the ironic, there are some are still attempting to use elements of classic Pop. Art to comment on indulgence culture. The best in recent memory being New York-based painter and sculptor Will Cotton who, with his lush images of literal candy lands makes us think about the more artificial elements of modern society by imposing them with symbolism from the natural world.

Hungry for More?

Access the FREE monthly Culture Grub newsletter.

Get 2 free issues of Juztapoz while they last!

Will Cotton

Untitled, 2004. Oil on linen, 80″ x 120″.

Will Cotton

Born in Massachusetts around the same time Warhol got going in 1965, Will Cotton began making things at a young age. Deciding he liked creating art enough to try and go pro, he enrolled at the high-flying New York Academy of Art in 1988. It was here that Will Cotton would develop his lush, brightly colored marshmallow textured style. This started out simply, with purely nature based images rendered in paint only in such a way that looks like candy, with no indications of human society.

Will Cotton

Kisses, 2004. Oil on linen, 75″ x 100″.

Sticking with this style for nearly a decade, Will Cotton took another turn in 1996 when buildings began to appear in the natural/unnatural scenes. Most artists would have been happy to simply paint the buildings into the images but Will Cotton wanted there to a rich, tactile feel to them. Even then most people should have incorporated some element of photography but Will Cotton, possessed of ambition contradicting the seemingly frivolous nature of his subjects, started sculpting miniature tableaux’s out of pastry and ice cream and painting photo-realistic renderings of them before they melted, such as in the painting “Happy Place”.

Never one to sit still for long, Will Cotton lasted seven years before changing again, beginning to populate his world of tactile indulgence and fans fun glut with images of nude or partially nude, pin-up style photographs of women. Including some famous image of singer Katy Perry. While this may seem like a cynical appeal to prurient interest, there is a reason behind the seeming exploitation.

Will Cotton



Rather than being an application of the fraudulent promises of unattainable pleasures used by commercial advertisers since the 1960s, it is actually meant as an inversion of them. As Cotton has stated “these paintings are all about a very specific place. It is a utopia where 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.”

See more works here.

Written by

Attending art galleries before his age was in the double digits, T.K. McNeil has had a long-standing interest in art. An interest he made official obtaining a degree in Art History form the University of Victoria. Starting out at The Martlet Independent Newspaper, he has had pieces placed in publications as diverse as TechDigg, The Richest, The Spoof UK (as Trey Droll) and PopMatters.


Share your Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Michael Hermesh Lesser Known Artwork with Paint

Michael Hermesh Lesser Known Artwork with Paint

Michael Hermesh’s most famous fine art is sculpture, but works also with paint producing the same wonderfully morbid feeling seen in any other artwork of his. Like great architecture, there are ideas that have existed nearly as long as humans have spoken in full sentences. One of the main ones being the idea that the … Read more

Art and Gentrification: A Dangerous Gentrification Definition

Art and Gentrification: A Dangerous Gentrification Definition

There is a scandalous new relationship between art and gentrification that warrants a closer look at the gentrification definition most seem to know. Contemporary artists and gentrification artists replace bull horns with beautifully pointed picket signs. They make their voices heard via symbols and compositions at every protest, in every gallery, and on every wall. … Read more

Art Posters by Molly Crabapple are Politically Charged

Art Posters by Molly Crabapple are Politically Charged

Molly Crabapple is like a photojournalist capturing culture both good and evil in her fine art posters and poster art. There has been a long history of hybrids in the art world. Including collage that often shows up in fine art posters, which is made up entirely of the combination of disparate seemingly contradictory elements. … Read more

Never Miss a Thing

Signup now for the FREE Culture Grub monthly digest