September 17, 2014 - by Ruth Collis
One thing I like share with someone new is my origin story of how I got into this 3D style of thick painting and a little bit of my background in hopes to form some connections. I made a special art piece called "Bubble Gum Art." It is an 11x14 and made entirely of bubble gum chewed wads that came colored from the factory, not clay. Nothing's painted either, just raw gum chewed to make shapes.
People don't believe it even when smelling a sensory overload in waves of sugary bubble gum aromas hit them when seeing this in person. Read some interesting facts about it here and how this piece was the start of 3-dimension in my art today.
Some interesting facts:
Sky: Carefree's Alpine Mint flavor
Clouds: Extra's Peppermint
Roses: Bubblicious' Strawberry Blast
Yellow: Fruit Stripe's yellow stick
Tree Leaves: Freshen-up's Spearmint
Tree Trunk: Jolly Rancher's Grape (was brown, believe it or not, that has since been discontinued in the gum, not the candy)
*Some colors might be mixed, like the calla lily leaves.
*It was made in the middle of ant season, where I had to find a new place to put the piece each night until I could figure out how to preserve it. I never did find out, and it has browned a lot since.
*Even after chewing to get the form pliable for shaping, and spitting all the sugary juice out, I still got sick. In health, when they say digestion begins in the mouth, they aren't kidding!
*I took it to show my dentist once... of all people to show what causes tooth decay. They were fascinated and others gathered around, but wanted to know why I brought it in. To develop a relationship if possible.
*Tree leaves were left in as wads of gum instead of shaped into leaves to help bridge the gap between people's disbelief. Yes, it really is gum.
*I signed my name in the tree trunk as a visual pun on what people often do in carving their names on a tree.
How I got the idea:
One day walking home from junior high I saw this line of many bubble gum wads stuck to the wall. Crazy kids. I was taught respect of nature, people, things, and health, but some gum colors seemed to stand out more than others... Green... really? Red gum? Oh, that must be cinnamon.
Years later during college burnout, I wanted to live life and do something fun. So remembering the bubble gum line on the wall from years earlier, I now went to all the bubble gum stores to see if I could find a rainbow of colors, to make this scene of flowers I had in mind.
The scene came from 2 different places I had been to: one was where I took my reluctant mother canoeing through the waterways in Oregon, and we saw the pretty backyards of people that had homes on this embankment. My crazy self also got her wobbly feet on roller skates. (I regret that now at putting her in danger of falling, but she never did, as I held her tight.) Of course she ended up having fun. The other scene was in Long Beach, California where the Queen Mary ship is, sea shops, and a lighthouse with sailboats traveling by.
I combined these 2 scenes in my mind, laboring through the boring sky part that never seemed to end. Also, it was pretty annoying running into 2 different batches of blue, though the wrapper was labelled the same name, and had to go get more supplies. Don't they know an artist will come along and need exact shades? (sigh)
Questions I got asked:
Did you chew all that?
Unfortunately, yes. I thought about getting others to chew it, but really, that's even grosser to handle! I guess I didn't think of plastic gloves back then.
Why would you make a piece like this?
I wanted to try something other than boring flat paint. It was not well received in the upper lifestyle of my boyfriend's family at the time. It was the start of exploring regular art mediums later.
How do you get the sky texture?
I didn't. It was made that way by the manufacturer. All I did was chew it and place it down (then gag on all the sugar)! You can see the different textures and smoothness between each brand of gum here.
How old is it?
Best I can remember is it being made between 1996 and 1998. Photograph info shows the date I took the browning photo to be August 11, 2011
Bubble Gum Browning
This bubble gum art piece shows it's browning over time and how I have moved on to a more permanent medium in acrylic painting.
You can see the browning over time of a perishable medium that I didn't think about then, just wanting to have fun. Luckily, the pictures are preserved. I made a blue case that consisted of a few art frames put together back to back, and covered it in a glass case with some cushions to keep the frame nice and the piece protected from injury best as possible. There is one thing that is preserved... the overwhelming smell of sugar! Somehow people like that and are not grossed out like I would imagine.
So this was when my 3D interest in art starting taking place and it was as if forms came more to life if they had shape and dimension off the surface. Since then, I have been drawn to the possibilities of impasto paint (a more archival medium), now that manufacturers started making thicker paint with better quality.
How did you get the detail?
Roll a bit in your hands back and forth to get a straight line. It was pretty tricky getting a line so thin as the kites strings.
Now, years later, I go and move to a town where there is a famous gum wall tourist attraction in San Luis Obispo called Bubble Gum Alley. I still have not seen that grossness yet, nor have interest in it, but go figure.