I got home late last night…
Today, I will go for a walk on the beach and then head to the movies to go see Hellboy II. Later tonight, it’s hanging out with some friends and running around the Lower East Side. Bon Jovi is playing for free in Central Park, and there’s free salsa music at one of the most sublime outdoor conservatories in the world.
Good thing I don’t live in one of those wealth-producing “Best Places to Live” provinces like Plano, TX or Albuquerque, NM!
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I came upon Will Cotton’s work quite by accident and while my artistic tastes run more toward the abstract and expressionistic (thanks to my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Rubel, whom I’ll never forget), I like his work. The above piece is an oil on linen lavishly painted in a soft-core, soft-focus style that brings to my mind eighteenth-century masters. His creamy-skinned nudes painted amid luscious surroundings evoke a sensuality that appeals to my inner hedonist, but he’s no mere imitator. Unlike his more romantic predecessors, Cotton substitutes pastoral love scenes with mountains of sweets and other erotic treats.
It would seem to me that candy for Cotton is what lush dark forests were for previous artists: a Utopian ideal of plenty and temptation. While there are no consequences depicted in his paintings, the viewer somehow gets it that outside the hedonistic fantasies, indulgence always has its price. Check out the girl’s lithe but seemingly tense body and you get a sense that the enclosed castle of ice cream is as much of a curse as a comfort.
When I really looked at this painting, I was reminded that we live in an era of immeasurable delights whose sweetness is sometimes poisoned by gluttony and guilt. Instead of painting lovers engaging in sexual adventures, he paints lonely fashion models, whose very solitude is a reflection of an age of self-obsession, fixation, and compulsive masturbatory fantasies.
Whether there for mere eye candy, or as main subjects, his models almost never seem satisfied. While candy satisfies emotional instant gratification and frivolous fantasies, it only serves to distract the body from its core hunger for anything genuine or real, leading to obesity, not fulfillment. Like the foods he paints, at first glance, Cotton’s paintings might appear light, but upon further scrutiny they are also full of abstract calories.