Chew On This: Mini Masterpieces of Bubblegum Art – in pictures

New Jersey artist Michael Massaia’s masticated sculptures of sea creatures, flamenco dancers and space helmets are made entirely from spat-out gum.

Article from The Creators Project

Broken Heart, Transmogrify II by Michael Massaia
Broken Heart, Transmogrify II

Generally seen as an ordinary bit of confectionary or, if you’ve stepped on some, a social menace, bubblegum is a sculptural medium for Michael Massaia.  The New Jersey artist’s mini-sculptures range from anatomical organs, flowers and sea creatures to clothing and more abstract shapes. Despite appearances, none of the images are digitally manipulated.

A New Life, Sea Creature #3, Transmogrify II by Michael Massaia
A New Life, Sea Creature #3, Transmogrify II

‘All are created from a single piece of chewed gum,’ says Massaia. ‘I mold them using my hand, tongue and teeth.  ‘One night I was sitting around, chewing gum, and blowing bubbles,’ he told The Creators Project. ‘For some reason I removed a blown intact bubble from my mouth, shaped like a human heart, and looked at it on a light box.’  ‘I was so amazed by how much it looked like actual organ tissue,’ he continues. ‘The depth and complexity of the textures was way beyond anything I could have imagined.’

Massaia mounts each new bubblegum work on black plexiglass and photographs it using a Creo scanner or large-scale camera.  ‘By combining this new medium with photography, I felt as if a whole new world was open to me courtesy of Hubba Bubba,’ says Massaia.  The images recall another series, in which Massaia photographed melted ice-creams in all their multicoloured swirling glory. ‘The effect on me is literally nauseating,’ wrote critic Jonathan Jones.

Sea Creature, Transmogrify II by Michael Massaia
Sea Creature, Transmogrify II

Massaia’s other work also finds depth in the apparently banal – there are photo series of old pinball machines,LED advertising boards, and discarded call-girl cards.  Despite the complex processes involved in his gum sculptures, Massaia says he works alone: ‘the sole craftsman from the instant the negative is exposed to the moment the final print is made.’

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