artnet Asks: Sculptor and Installation Artist Peter Anton
The artist obsesses about the foods he uses to create his sculptures.
It’s somewhat difficult to look at Peter Anton’s works without feeling hunger pangs. However, his large-scale food sculptures not only activate viewers’ stomachs, but also stimulate their memories and desires. The artist’s meticulous exploration of textures and use of vibrant colors celebrate the importance and allure of food within people’s lives, both past and present. Despite experiencing initial rejection from galleries, Anton has succeeded in achieving global representation, creating cheerful works of art. The artist recently spoke with artnet News about his career and how he creates his sculptures.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Becoming an artist was a natural evolution for me. My earliest memories of childhood were sitting on my mother’s lap and drawing chickens together. I always felt the need to express myself through creating things. I would hang out in the kitchen while my mother prepared meals, and would gather up all of the uncooked food cuttings and scraps and empty containers and assemble them into sculptures.
Professionally, what is your goal?
In 2012, during Art Basel Miami Beach, I created Sugar & Gomorrah. It was an installation where I transformed an amusement ride into a thrilling art experience. This year I created “The Foodhist Temple.” In this installation, I turned UNIX Gallery into a temple. I would like to do more of these immersive interactive art projects.
What personal narratives are related to your work?
Food was, and continues to be, a strong passion of mine. I am fascinated by the important part food plays in people’s daily lives and throughout history, including the major role it has in all of the world’s religions. I also get excited learning how different foods activate passions and emotions in people and the profound connection food has to an individual’s memories and personal history. Food is not just about sustaining life. Historically, food is also the reason for many of the world’s conflicts and wars.
What does an average day in the studio look like for you?
In my studio, I surround myself with the specific food I will be creating into a sculpture. I read about that food and its history and how it is made. Let’s say I am going to make a giant boxed donuts sculpture. I will get fresh donuts from different bakeries and stores. I then study them, break them apart, and study the different characteristics; I smell them, eat them, and obsess about them. When I am confident that I know donuts, I will start to consider what materials and processes I will incorporate in order to get the effects and look that I demand. Sometimes, the completed piece looks so real that I can smell it, until I realize that a forgotten donut was left hiding somewhere on my work table.
What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The greatest challenge that I have faced as an artist was when I first decided to seek gallery representation. There weren’t many platforms where I could show my work, since most galleries were more interested in darkness, despair, and angst. I feel there is enough of that in the world and I don’t want to contribute to that. I am not interested in memorializing that way of thinking. I’d rather make people feel good. I was the only guy exclusively creating realistic over-sized sculptures of sweets and other foods. Countless dealers told me that collectors would not be interested in my artwork and that I should change my subject matter if I was serious about being an artist. I believed in my vision, ignored their advice, and kept going.
What do you dislike about the art world? What do you love the most?
How can I possibly dislike anything about the art world? I’ve met so many interesting people and never have a boring day and I am doing what I love to do. My favorite place to be is in my studio, where I am challenged all the time by experimenting with new materials and coming up with new ideas and techniques. I get to create and express myself through my art every day.
If you could own any artwork, what would it be and why?
I would love to own Vincent van Gogh’s The Night Café This work of art is in the collection of the art museum at Yale University. When I was growing up in New Haven, I would often visit this gallery with my family. This was my first exposure to so much different art, and it really impacted me. The Night Café was my favorite piece. I really liked the feel of the room in that painting and the colors and the thick paint. Owning that painting would encapsulate the exciting and important memories and happy times that I treasure so much.
What superpower would you have and why?
Since history interests me, I would love the ability to go back in time. Not only would it be amazing to witness some of the greatest moments in history, but it would also be a fantastic source of inspiration. It would also be very insightful in helping to understand oneself better by witnessing one’s own past rather than participating in it.
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