Published on January 11th, 2013 | by Elizabeth Coleman0
Art Trends: Gummy Bear Art
Though the gummy bear is now over 90 years old, it still holds a place in contemporary culture. Today, the gummy bear is widely recognized as a symbol of popular consumerism and bygone childhood days; it has been replicated into gummy bear cartoons, stuffed animals, toys…and art.
Surprisingly, “gummy bear art” has become something of a sub-genre as artists take on this symbol of pop culture to explore political issues and dark emotions while maintaining a light, humorous air.
In her Gummy Bear series, Taiwanese artist Ya Ya Chou uses gummy bears to demonstrate her concern about toxic food ingredients and the artificiality of the well-loved treat. Chou’s “Chandelier”, a piece made entirely of gummy bears strung on wire, juxtaposes a well-known symbol of luxury against the strangeness of what popular culture is willing to consume.
“With their jewel tones and translucent qualities, [Chou] thinks they look more like decoration than something edible and notes that even when the bears were left out for cats, roaches and ants, none showed interest in eating the candy,” said writer Liz Good in Fiberarts Magazine.
Many artists, however, prefer to use the medium in a more lighthearted manner. Jenice Johnson’s Gummy Worlds, for example, is a collection of playful gummy bear photography and greeting cards.
“I just love the look and reaction these little guys get,” Johnson said. “It brings the kid out of everyone…and a smile on their faces. That’s what’s important. Making people happy.”
Johnson’s work is decidedly lighthearted, depicting the gummy bear in its “natural habitat.” Images include a gummy bear couple on a park bench, playing in the snow or mowing the lawn. Other images reveal a slightly dangerous side to the gummy bear world. One image shows a gummy bear caught in an eagle’s talons, while “Gummy Assassins” depicts a gummy bear being run through with a cocktail pick.
More often than not, though, artistic conceptualizations involving the gummy bear take a dark turn. What would be considered vulgar, obscene or graphically violent seem strangely cute and playful when acted out by gummy bears. A quick Google search for “gummy bear art” leads to images of gummy bears stabbing each other with pins, engaging in sexual acts or alienating “differently colored” gummy bears.
Aside from the symbolism of the gummy bear, artists are drawn to the benefits of the medium. Haribo produces more than 80 million gummy bears a day, allowing artists to create art cheaply and in abundance.
The gummy bears is also uniquely versatile: their gelatinous nature filters light to make them seem luminescent, and the gummy bears’ soft squishiness allows artists to pierce and fashion them in different ways. Artists and designers have featured the gummy bear in everything from paintings, lamps and erasers, to jewelry, sculptures and conceptual photography.
The only downside seems to be that Haribo only produces a handful of colors (though other manufacturers create gummy bears with more colors), so any tone or shade variations need to be altered with dyes and markers. The gummy bear also does not hold up well under heat; assemblage artists and sculpture artists have made the tragic discovery that gummy bears melt after prolonged exposure to the sun.
With the prevalence of gummy bear art, one has to wonder what that says about popular culture today, especially since the art form is becoming more and more globalized. Perhaps as the sub-genre continues to grow, we will begin to piece together a more interesting (and even slightly disturbing) viewpoint of our collective, human culture, seen through the otherworldly eyes of one of the world’s most popular candies.