These 4 Sugar-Coated Artworks May Look Sweet, But They Also Tell Some Salty Truths About Society and Consumption

Sweeten up your Valentine's Day with this candy-themed art.

Peter Anton, Conversation Candies (2019). Courtesy of the artist.

Is it even Valentine’s Day without a mild sugar overdose? From special boxes of decadent chocolate to conversation-starting candy hearts, artists may be second only to lovers when it comes to finding inspiration in the candy aisle.

Some artists have used sweets as cultural commentary, like the late conceptual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, whose nuanced installations featured piles of wrapped candies that were slowly diminished by visitors taking one piece at a time. The gradual disappearance of the candies alluded to the artist’s personal experience watching his lover die from AIDS, fading slowly day by day.

Other artists have incorporated real candy in their work, like performance artist Janine Antoni, who created 14 sculptural busts cast from her own body for an installation called Lick and Lather (1993). The only catch? Seven of the busts were made from chocolate, and the other seven from soap. The artist molded each figure into different proportions by licking the chocolate and washing the soap of each bust, questioning notions of conventional beauty.

So, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, feast your eyes on some of the most realistic, delicious-looking, sweets-inspired artworks.


Peter Anton
Celestial Assortment (2015)

Peter Anton, <i>Celestial Assortment</i> (2015). © Peter Anton. Courtesy of the artist.

Peter Anton, Celestial Assortment (2015). © Peter Anton. Courtesy of the artist.

Artist Peter Anton has made a career out of super-sizing everything sweet, from doughnuts to cupcakes, and of course the ubiquitous box of chocolates. “I have an innate reverence for the things we eat,” he once said, and his meticulously detailed sculptures do, in fact, look good enough to eat.


Gina Beavers
The Life I Deserve (Ice Cream) (2016)

Gina Beavers, The Life I Deserve (Ice Cream) (2016). Courtesy of the FLAG Art Foundation.

If it looks like Gina Beavers’s sculptural paintings are drawn straight from Instagram, it’s because they are. Applying layers of thick paint in garish colors, Beavers riffs on themes of self-promotion and takes the term “food porn” literally. In her painting The Life I Deserve, which also served as the title for her first solo show at MoMA PS1 in 2019, Beavers’s themes of consumption, both online and IRL, coalesce into an image that is as repellent as it is delightful.

Will Cotton
Delicious (2008)

Will Cotton, <i>Delicious</i> (2008). Courtesy of the artist.

Will Cotton, Delicious (2008). Courtesy of the artist.

New York City-based artist Will Cotton was the creative director for Katy Perry’s music video California Gurls, set in a fanciful utopia called “Candyfornia,” and the pop star looked like one of Cotton’s models come to life. Whipped-cream coifs and cotton-candy clouds set the scene for the magical, sensual romp that featured themes the artist has incorporated into his work for decades. In Cotton’s Delicious (2008), which would have given Marie Antoinette’s confections a run for their money, a multi-tiered cake threatens to tumble under the weight of spun sugar and fondant icing—a dark reality often facing those who indulge in too much pleasure seeking.


Desire Obtain Cherish (DOC)
Various Meltdowns (2014)

Desire Obtain Cherish, <i>Various Meltdowns</i> (2014). Courtesy of the artist.

Desire Obtain Cherish, Various Meltdowns (2014). Courtesy of the artist.

Feeling lovelorn this holiday season? Street artist turned contemporary art impresario Jonathan Paul, who works under the name Desire Obtain Cherish (DOC), has just the work for you. Creating sculptural riffs on pop culture, DOC’s work might seem sweet, but at its core it’s a salty commentary on conspicuous consumption and material obsessions. If the melting lollipops don’t do it for you, perhaps a giant blister pack of luxury-brand-stamped pills is more to taste.

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