Monday, June 21, 2010

Whica What?

Have you seen Katy Perry's new video for "California Gurls"???.....

    First of all, I just want to once again point out my UNCANNY ability to sense what's on trend. At this point, I'm just bragging. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I begun fantasizing about being in one of Will Cotton's paintings (read Here). And, what do you know, Ms. Perry goes ahead and bases her entire video on his imagery!
     In the first scene, Ms. Perry walks over to a grove of taffy trees. Complete with puffs of cotton candy, they are more than just reminiscent of Will Cotton's painting "Taffy Forest."

Will Cotton “TAFFY FOREST” 2007

 Katy walks into a forest of candy canes, which look an awful lot like Cotton's "Candy Stick Forest."

A screen grab from the video

Will Cotton “CANDY STICK FOREST” 2005

     Next, Katy crosses a licorice bridge, suspended over a landscape that is a mash up of Cotton's "Kisses" and "Flan Pond"....the chocolate kiss trees, pirouette cookie sticks, and floating flan are EXACT copies of the scenes from the paintings.

Will Cotton "KISSES" 2004, Oil on Linen

Will Cotton "FLANPOND" 2002, Oil on Linen

     Then, Katy and her tarty friends visit a gingerbread man living in an cheap replica of Cotton's "Candy House," on a hill overlooking a forest of his frosted shortbread trees.

Will Cotton "CANDY HOUSE" 1998-99, Oil on Linen

Will Cotton "ENDLESS WINTER" 1999, Oil on Linen

     And the entire video is interspersed with clips of Ms. Perry preening atop one of Cotton's most recognizable motifs - the cotton candy cloud.

Will Cotton “COTTON CANDY CLOUDS” 2006, Oil on Linen 

In fact, the reference is so direct, that it seems that the background of Ms. Perry's set is in fact a copy/ paste of one of Cotton's originals.

     Now, I understand that these days everyone takes influences from everywhere else - sampling in music is a prime example of that. And I get that there is "nothing new under the sun." But frankly I am pretty disgusted about Katy Perry's cheap knock off of Will Cotton's sensitive, transportive work. If his work could be likened to a soothing bubble bath, then the video for "California Gurls" is like going to a Russian sauna to get a sand scrub from a babushka, topped off with several firm wacks of an oak branch.

 We know you have nice boobs, but are more than the sum of your parts!!!

    I know Katy Perry has distinguished herself as a kitchy, pin-up-y, pop songstress, but her voice is good enough to stand on its own (at least compared to other acts in pop music today). Obviously, Top 40 isn't about subtlety, but why can't we do something with a little bit of grace? Something more sophisticated? Does it ALL have to be bright lights and shock value? And she's got a look that's her own, even before she piles on the sequins and pastel wigs. She doesn't need to shoot whipped cream out of her bustier to get our attention! Jeez, girl don't try so hard! 

P.S.....That curly, lollypop thing in the background, to the left, is also a direct reference to a reoccurring motif in Cotton's work...

Will Cotton, RIBBON CANDY, 2008, oil on linen

   I am a big fan of Will Cotton, and although I am glad to see his imagery proliferated, I am frustrated by the fact that Ms. Perry uses such a direct reference (even so far as to replicate original work) without any acknowledgement of the artist. I wonder if this verges on legal intellectual property infringement - surely the unauthorized use of original artwork warrants some kind of legal action. Maybe Cotton was paid for his work, who knows. But I couldn't find a single reference to Will Cotton in any of the dialogue about the video. 
   So it wasn't a flattering reference, but a straight-up grab and go. Tisk,Tisk Katy Perry.


  1. Curious... good Blog entry... Will was a teacher of mine at the New York Academy of Art I will have to ask him. Are you an artist?

  2. Will Cotton was involved as the artistic director for this video.

  3. Do more research. Will Cotton was involved, and said he enjoyed working with Katy Perry.
    In his words:
    "It was thrilling to work with her and to see her inhabit my landscapes."

    Read for yourself:

  4. Dear Jon, Thank you for your comment.
    I did a follow-up post to this one, recognizing my misinformation and giving a renewed opinion.

    Check it out...