COTTON PICKIN’: Artist Will Cotton is known to be a jack-of-all-trades, and tonight he will show off his many talents in his first performance art piece at the Prince William Ballroom. As the name suggests, “Cockaigne” is a double-entendre that refers to a mythical land of plenty as described in medieval poetry written during a time of famine and a two-part, 20-minute extravaganza. Cotton has painted the backdrops and designed the costumes, while John Zorn composed the original music, Charles Askegard did the choreography and IFF’s senior perfumer cooked up the accompanying scent. Curator Stacy Engman is doing the honors for this Performa 11 piece, which she described Thursday as “olfactory art.”

Cockaigne will feature the Whipped Cream Dance performed by Miss Ruby Valentine (a burlesque dancer he has often painted), and the Cotton Candy Dance done by three ballerinas. Cotton, whose makeshift bakery in Partners & Spade was his first stab at quasi performance art, really does have a sweet tooth. “Very much so, but beyond that this was a matter of me looking for a good metaphorical standard for desire and pleasure,” he said. 

Moonlighting as creative director for Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” music video he reinterpreted some of his paintings as scene-stealing three-dimensional sets. The chance to bring his art to life is enticing since when painting he spends a good chunk of time imagining what’s going on with the narrative, what happened before the moment he has created and what will happen next.

Cynthia Rowley, Marilyn Minter, Mickalene Thomas, Mary Boone and Bill Powers are expected tonight to see what Cotton has whipped up. While Cotton and Rowley have worked together in the past, he recruited Christina Giannini (whose costumes have been worn by ABT dancers) to play up the theatrical side for Cockaigne. With all sorts of other costume ideas dancing in his head, the artist is aiming for another in with the fashion crowd. “I would love to work with the Proenza Schouler guys. I’ve been watching some of the things they do and think we could work well together,” Cotton said. 

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