costume design

A Surreal Pink Candyland Ballet Designed by Mark Ryden

These ballet costumes bring whipping cream, champagne, and cupcakes to twirling life.
24 April 2017, 8:13am
Mark Ryden, selected character studies, oil on board, dimesions variable. All images courtesy the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery

Winter may have come and gone, ushering out the season of The Nutcracker with it, but the decadence of ballet lives on through a production that brings sweets to life. In a performance at the Metropolitan Opera and a parallel gallery exhibit, artist Mark Ryden imbibes his sugary design aesthetic through costume and fashion prints. In his latest venture, the Portland-based artist creates classic, painterly pastel works with a childlike fantasy.

The art show, The Art of Whipped Cream, opening in May at Paul Kasmin Gallery in NYC, features the final realizations of each costume from the opera, Whipped Cream, a graceful choreographed feat by Alexei Ratmanksy. His illustrations encompass the bedtime dreams of prima ballerinas, pink, and lots of candy and pastries. Ryden's merry band of misfits includes a smiling half-dragon, half-muppet creature, and tiny humans masquerading as multilayered cakes. The two-dimensional drawings at Paul Kasmin are rendered in oil on board and graphite on paper.

Marianne, 2016. Oil on board, 22 x 16 in

The artist, known from the 90s for his Pop-meets-Surrealist aesthetic, has carried on his signature appeal of gratuitously sweet and twinkly-eyed creations which seem born from sugar. Speaking to Creators, Ryden admits he is "attracted to the old rather than the new."

"An old master's work can give me a feeling that a contemporary work seldom can. But I do combine this fascination of the old with certain things from the new—the first art I was exposed to was on album covers and comic books. I continue to find much visual inspiration from pop culture."


"I think one of the things that most characterizes my art is a diversity of influences. Most of my ideas are born from a connection to something special I see. I look everywhere for inspiration, from Flemish painters of the Renaissance to product packages in a grocery store. I live inside my own cabinet of curiosities. I regularly go to flea markets and collect a variety of things that inspire me."

Boris, 2016. Oil on board, 18 1/2 x 12 in

Don Zucchero alternate, 2016. 18 1/2 x 12 in

Princess Praline's Procession, 2016. Oil on board, 18 x 24 in

Prince Coffee, 2016. 18 1/2 X 12 in

Stella Abrera and David Hallberg in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Isabella Boylston in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Stella Abrera in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Alexei Agoudine, Patrick Ogle and Marshall Whitely in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Alexei Agoudine in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Marzipan Men in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Joseph Gorak and Blaine Hoven in Whipped Cream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Blaine Hoven in Whipped Cream. Photo: Doug Gifford

Mark Ryden's solo art exhibit, The Art of Whipped Cream, shows at Paul Kassman, May 20–July 21, 2017. Find more information about the show, here. Purchase tickets for the ballet, Whipped Cream, taking place at the Metropolitan Opera House, here.


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