Canonsburg’s Sarris Candies made a new addition to its shop for the next few months – a 350-pound, three-dimensional sculpture made of white chocolate and shaped liked a Grecian lady.
The idea for “Heautoscopic Jaunt,” created by local artist Heather Joy Puskarich, came to life when Puskarich approached Bill Sarris in December with the idea. She wanted to attempt to make a chocolate mold of her face. Her unique request didn’t faze Sarris.
“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 at St. Patrick’s in Canonsburg and earned a bachelor’s degree in film studies at the University of Pittsburgh, primarily works with glass. But after the success of her first chocolate mold, she wondered if it was possible to somehow transfer it into a full-body cast and build a “Greco-Roman” sculpture for an art exhibit in New York.
“He (Sarris) was such a wonderful person,” Puskarich said. “He really gets me, gets the whole thing. I think he liked the challenge as much as I did. He was really curious how the whole thing works. He was totally willing to give it a shot.”
To create the statue, Puskarich and Sarris workers had to create a new consistency for the white chocolate so it could keep its shape and melt only at higher temperatures. By burning some of the chocolate, they were able to create a look similar to marble and evoke the image of an ancient statue.
Puskarich said making the mold was the hardest part. “(It) was a very difficult process. I had to have a team help me,” she said. “It was really cold, and hard to remain comfortable (as they put silicone on her body to make the mold). But you have to remind yourself, it’s going to be a good piece.”
The mold took 12 hours, but the actual sculpture took three weeks.
“(Sometimes) I forgot to eat. I was living on coffee and dark chocolate,” Puskarich said. The mould of Puskarich’s body was made into three parts, and when they pulled each mould apart, that’s when the excitement started to build.
“It worked way better than any of us expected. It’s made me want to use chocolate again,” Puskarich said. Even though she wants to work with white chocolate again, the artist doesn’t eat white chocolate at all. In fact, she doesn’t even like the substance. “To me, it’s not real,” she said. “White chocolate is an oxymoron. (White) stand for purity, but it’s not chocolate at all.”
Puskarich’s finished sculpture was put on display at the Fosdick-Nelson Gallery in Alfred, N.Y., in May, but now the sculpture has come back to Sarris Candies.
“She’s a special artist, and we figured, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’” Sarris said. “There’s just been a great reaction to it.”
The statue will be on display at Sarris until Sept. 1.
Staff writer Mike Jones contributed to this report.