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Skittle Self-Portrait Caroline Freese


Skittles and E6000 Industrial glue on plywood

5'w x 5'h


During the fall of 2013 I ate Skittles. Every. Single. Day. These small pieces of candy have brought to my attention the difficulty of finding a personal identity in today’s branding society. I’ve lived in a world of powerful, absorbing consumerism, and my daily habit of eating Skittles is a perfect example of successful “in-your-face-branding.” Each little fruit flavored candy proudly bears the letter “S” for Skittles. My observation of consumerism is that searching for an identity through a sea of colorful brands can be difficult. As an artist, I understand the struggle to find a sense of self in and through one’s art, when brands and consumerism are being pushed into everything you do. My goal is to flip the problem from obstructing my identity to representing my identity using branding and consumerism as a tool for expressing myself. I am an outgoing, fun loving person, and Skittles are the perfect medium to symbolize that personality with their bright colors and proud “S”s.


Focus Grant Exhibit, Memorial Union, Iowa State Universtiy, Ames, IA. Pioneer Room; Mar. 23 - Apr. 25; Applied Grant Exhibition


Caroline Freese applied for a Focus grant from Iowa State University in the spring of 2015. This artist grant program is an opportunity for undergraduates and graduate students to be awarded up to $600 to complete a project, which can range from hosting a concert to creating a large work of art out of Skittles.

Caroline received $600 from the grant to buy Skittles and lots of glue. The project ended up using over 20,000 Skittles. It took Caroline more than 100 hours to research, plan, prep, glue skittles, and frame the piece. To help save time, Caroline's mother sorted all the skittles by color for her. Caroline worked on the large project, which had a plywood base, in her father's machine shop on the concrete floor all summer. It weighed about 250 pounds at completion.

The Skittles Self-Portrait was on display at the Memorial Union on Iowa State's campus in the spring of 2016. The project was written about by the local paper, the Ames Tribune, and Caroline received a letter from the Skittles Corporation congratulating her on her work.

The story doesn't end there. Before the project officially premiered at the Focus Grant Exhibit, Skittles had what could be described as a flattering reproduction of Caroline's self portrait featured in their 2016 Super Bowl commercial starring Steven Tyler.

In the summer of 2016, after the Focus Grant Exhibit, Caroline returned the artwork to her hometown and hung it at the Indianola Veterinary Clinic, where her father works. It became the talk of the town.

In the fall of 2016, Caroline was contacted by NBC for a chance to create a piece of Halloween art out of Skittles on the morning show with Kathie Lee and Hoda. Although a two-week scramble of developing a new design ended in disappointment when NBC chose a more experienced artist, much was gained and learned by Caroline from the experience.

After four years, the Skittles portrait hanging at the veterinary clinic was starting to show its age, especially in the areas where dogs had managed to lick the candy. Caroline and her father removed it from the wall and encapsulated the Skittles in 4 gallons of pour-on epoxy resin. The Skittles art, now preserved, was re-hung for people to enjoy. Although the original vibrate colors are now dulled, seeing the artwork in person is the only way to fully appreciate the immensity of the project.

Currently the Skittles Self-Portrait is on display in Caroline's pottery studio.


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