Bill Sarris didn’t bat an eyelash when he received a request from a local artist to create a sculpture of herself out of nothing but white chocolate.
Workers at Sarris Candies in Canonsburg and the artist, Heather Joy Puskarich, just had to find a way to bring the sugary artwork to life.
“We definitely thought it was possible,” Sarris said. “But we didn’t know how to do it, and she had never worked with chocolate before.”
Puskarich, who went to grade school in Peters Township while also splitting time in Dallas, Texas, approached Sarris in December with the idea of making a chocolate mold of her face. When that process went relatively smoothly, the artist, who has mostly spent her time working with glass, wondered if they could somehow transfer it into a full body cast to build a “Greco-Roman” sculpture for an upcoming art exhibit in New York.
She and the Sarris workers had to create a new consistency for the white chocolate that would keep its shape and melt only at higher temperatures. They burned some of it to create a marbling look that would befit an ancient statue.
They made the mold of her body into three parts and were amazed as they pulled the chocolate away and her “crazy idea” came to life.
“When we started taking the mold apart, you could see a hand here and there, and then we started to get really excited,” she said. “It worked way better than any of us expected. It’s made me want to use chocolate again.”
Then they shipped the three pieces to Alfred, N.Y., where Puskarich was working on her master’s degree in sculpture and glass. She chiseled away to make the likeness of herself, going as far as adding details such as the goose bumps on her knee.
Sarris said he was proud of their work, but even more impressed by Puskarich’s talents.
“Let’s give credit where credit is due. She’s a really good artist, a great artist,” Sarris said. “You can see the detail in her work.”
The irony of Puskarich’s project is that she can’t stand white chocolate. Maybe her preference for dark chocolate helped her get through the painstaking detail without swiping a bite.
“It’s just too sweet, but it was perfect for the elements of the project,” she said.
The sculpture, which is named Heautoscopic Jaunt, is on view by appointment only at the Fosdick-Nelson Gallery in Alfred, N.Y., until the end of the month. Puskarich hopes to bring it back to the Pittsburgh area early next month and display it at various art galleries – possibly even the Andy Warhol Museum – before it could end up finding a home at Sarris Candies.
That would be fine with Sarris, who says the unique artwork has sent the “chocolate world” buzzing with excitement.
“Artists are very different thinkers. They’re unique,” Sarris said. “She’s a special artist, and we figured, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ There’s just been a great reaction to it.”