Inside The Artist's Studio: Will Cotton

One of the creative minds behind Katy Perry's California Gurls video, takes us on a visual tour of his work space.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Last spring, when the artist Will Cotton received an e-mail from Katy Perry inquiring about buying one of his paintings, it struck him, even then, as an act of providence. "Katy was someone I'd actually been looking at for a while," says Cotton, who favors buxom burlesque dancers over traditional artists' models. "She's a total pinup girl—and here she was, writing to me!"

Cotton's tasty paintings—which serves up comely nudes on cotton-candy cloud beds and landscapes suggestively dripping with sweets—had already made him famous in the art world. (His 2009 pop-up bakery at New York City's Partners & Spade, where he sold homemade versions of the confections that populate his canvases, was a resounding success.) But it was Perry's imprimatur that made him go pop: first by commissioning him to paint her portrait for the album cover of Teenage Dream, then by employing him to art-direct the video for "California Gurls"—a veritable live-action survey of Cotton's past decade of work. It marked the first time in his career that he was able to outsource the production of props ("Make those sugar cubes sparklier!"); still, the Candy Land board game Snoop is playing is his own handiwork.

Now one year removed from that enriching experience, Cotton has headed west—from New York's Lower East Side to Tribeca—into an upgraded live/work space with more square footage to fill (or tastefully leave bare) than he's ever had before. He particularly likes baking in his open kitchen and throwing drawing parties, where friends and fellow artists Inka Essenhigh, Ellen Altfest, and David Humphrey set up ad hoc easels from folding chairs and sketch a live dancer. But he's still getting used to the new space. "It's so new that I'm only just crawling into certain rhythms," he says.

Cotton was in a group show that just closed in Paris, and in October he'll release a book with Rizzoli. Yet despite the busy schedule, Cotton found time to give us a tour of his new home.

"My old studio was a mess because I'd been there so long," Cotton says of the space on the Lower East Side that he split with fellow painter Cecily Brown. His new one is located on cobblestoned Harrison Street, just down the block from the Hudson River and a restaurant, Terroir Tribeca, where he's now a regular.

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