© Francois G. Durand / Getty Images
Hannah Walhout
June 22, 2017

We’ve all been taught that corn syrup is pure evil—basically, diabetes in liquid form. Medical professionals have linked overconsumption of sugary foods to rising rates of obesity, metabolic disorders, and, of course, diabetes. Many believe we should avoid the stuff at all costs. James Franco disagrees.

The actor-turned-artist recently acquired gallons of corn syrup to use as an artistic medium, mimicking ceramic glaze. Except, unlike the rest of us, Franco wasn’t glazing lopsided mugs he made in a weekend pottery class. He was glazing humans. 

The fruit of his labor is this video for Sotheby’s newest exhibition, Glazed: The Legacy of the Della Robbia—a mesmerizing, viscerally uncomfortable exercise in slo-mo. 

You could say that this piece plays with the idea of food as art—the glaze makes people look like they’ve been candied, an effect reminiscent of contemporary candy-inspired works by the likes of Jeff Koons and Bompass and Parr

You could also say that this piece is a slowed down video of James Franco pouring corn syrup all over three very brave models. We probably should have warned you about the gratuitous shots of gooey chest hair.

Franco is collaborating with Sotheby’s Artist Response Series, which commissions artists to create works that interact with the Sotheby’s collections. Glazed, Franco’s chosen inspiration, presents the works of the Della Robbia family—whose studio popularized glazed terracotta sculpture in 15th- and 16th-century Florence. 

The patriarch of the family, Luca della Robbia, invented a style of glaze that took Renaissance Italy by storm. It’s only natural that Franco responded by reimagining the idea of “glaze” in bizarre fashion, as only he can. He says corn syrup mimics “the high-shine gloss that still exists in the glaze, and the vibrant colors.” Don’t try this at home—it looks like the kind of sticky situation nobody wants to clean up after.


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