CRITIQUE/ESSAY by Jane LeGrow, Lyman Allyn Art Museum
For Peter Anton, food goes beyond necessity and indulgence; it is a gateway to memory and emotion. His oversized, hyperrealistic confections immediately surprise and delight, conjuring up childhood memories of frosty popsicles melting in the Summer sun and chalky candy hearts received on Valentine’s day. Boxes of lavishly decorated chocolates come complete with bite marks. Rows of donuts are punctuated by empty rings of glaze. Birthday cakes with slices missing suggest a party happening just offstage. Depicting intrinsically ephemeral objects – foods to be eaten, that melt or decay if unconsumed – his sculptures capture fleeting moments.
Virginia Mecklenburg, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, has called Anton’s work, “witty, funny, [and] transformative.” His work has clear roots in Pop Art and builds on such works as Claes Oldenburg’s gigantic sculptures of common objects and Wayne Thiebaud’s depictions of commercialized desserts. Here, Anton’s subjects are iconic American sweets, largely mass-produced and instantly recognizable. They connect us at once to individual sensory memory and shared cultural identity. The exaggerated scale and exacting detail both tease our senses and encourage exploration of our ideas about appetite, consumption, pleasure, overindulgence and even addiction.
The process of making a sculpture begins for Anton with a nearly reverent exploration of the food itself – its history, how it is made, and a close examination of how it tastes, feels, smells, and even crumbles. Each artwork is painstakingly rendered over a period of weeks from a variety of materials, including plaster, resin, wood, metal, acrylic and oil paints, all carefully chosen to most realistically reproduce the textures and colors of the actual food.
“I strongly feel that different foods activate passions and emotions in people and profoundly connect to an individual’s memories and personal history,” Anton says. His meticulous meditation on each ice cream bar and cherry cordial invites us to reconnect with our deeper selves and savor the emotions that these sweets stir up.