This piece, entitled “Let’s have a heart-to-heart,” is a feminist play on the well-known Conversation Candy Hearts that enter drugstores and supermarkets every February. I started looking at other artists whose work deals with well-known and recognizable objects and manipulates them in a way that changes their meaning and instigates conversation. I settled on researching Jeff Koons and his sculptures of everyday objects.
Koons was born in 1955 and studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He entered the art scene with his first exhibition in 1980. Since then, he has become one of the most well known sculptors in the world and his pieces sell for record-breaking amounts at auction. He currently lives and works in New York City but employs fabricators around the world. 
Many of Koons’ sculptures take the form of commonplace items, reproduced on a monumental scale or in deceptive and unexpected materials. Thus, size and material play a major role in visually confronting the viewers and making them rethink the context, function and meaning of the item. Since the subject matter of the pieces is often familiar, disposable items, this mimicry brings into conversation the value and substance of not only the original item but also the corresponding sculpture.
This close relationship to source material has resulted in legal concerns over Koons’ work. Numerous plagiarism and copyright cases have been filed against him, in which the plaintiffs claim that his work is based off of their intellectual property. Examples of this include advertisements or photographs that Koons used as a reference and inspiration for his sculptures. Questions of ownership have also been reversed when Koons-like products have been sold and he has threated legal action against the producers. For instance, when a store began carrying balloon dog bookends, Koons attempted to take the issue to the courts, but dropped the case when questions were posed as to whether or not he “owns” the idea of metal balloon animals as art.
The MoMA describes Koons as a “radical exponent of Neo-Geo, an American movement concerned with appropriation and parody. Following the example of Pop artists of the 1960s, Koons used his work to reflect the commercial systems of the modern world. He also referred back to the Duchampian tradition, appropriating an art status to selected products.” His work has also been described as Neo-pop and Post-Pop, (a continuation of the Pop movement). Art critic John Perreault describes this saying, “Pop is commonly thought to be the remaking, presentation or quotation of common, preexisting, mostly mass-produced objects and images.” Koons’ pieces, while based off of disposable consumer goods, have all been laboriously created to attain the exact form and look desired. Balloon animals that would pop or shrivel with time are given almost an immortal lifespan in metal and elevated to high art. The idea of popular culture is inextricable from the way in which we interact with the world around us; advertising and consumption patterns play on what we value and how we relate to each other and the material world.
For my sculpture, I attempted to create a facsimile of Conversation Candy Hearts but then inserted the artist’s hand with my “edits” and “revisions” to the already-existing messages. My pieces aim to challenge the status quo of male-female relationships, power hierarchies, and the trivialization of everyday discourse. Because the candy hearts are enlarged, they are no longer “digestible” for the viewer to take lightly. Instead, viewers are forced to notice them and consider the choices at play in their creation. Like Koons, my pieces are not made from the same material as their original counterpart . However, the material employed resembles it to a striking degree. Instead of compressed sugar, my hearts are made of plaster mixed with pigment to create the same chalky sugar texture.
Koons has been both praised and harshly disparaged by critics. His art has been described as kitsch, artificial, cheap and cynical self-merchandising.” Regardless of your opinion on his work, Koons has become a brand, and a well-known one at that. His retrospective at the Whitney is the most expensive exhibition they have ever held and his collectors’ contributions to museums, public interest and curatorial attention continue to feed his success and fame. In her article (“Jeff Koons' Whitney Retrospective: Expensive Art Is Important Art”) for Forbes, Kathryn Tully writes, “This retrospective may encourage visitors to delve into the relationship between art and consumerism in Koons’ work or question the aesthetic value of the art produced by the contemporary art market’s king of the moment, but the prevailing message to the public is loud and clear: art that is currently expensive is important and worthy of our attention.“ Koons’ work is simultaneously embedded in consumer culture and critiquing the system.
I hoped to employ a seemingly benign consumer good that carried broader cultural ramifications. Looking at these candies, we take their messages as a given and accept the conversation they put forth. However. when these messages are altered, we are finally made aware of the alternate options available and the triviality and complicit silence in which we all take part regarding equity and equality in social, economic and political relationships.
 Other artists and pieces I considered in my process were Claes Oldenburg and his monumental sculptures of items like clothespins and Badminton birdies, Rotganzen’s melting disco balls and large lollipops, Mona Hatoum’s hand grenades and nail Welcome mat and Pae White’s gold and plaster popcorn.
 Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times.