Cooking with the Collection: Claes Oldenburg

Akron Art Museum
4 min readAug 14, 2020


Strawberry Buttercream

by: Maryann Wohlwend

Inverted Q, Claes Oldenburg, (Stockholm, Sweden, 1929 — ), 1976, Painted cast concrete, 72 in. x 70 in. x 63 in. (182.88 cm x 177.8 cm x 160.02 cm), Gift of Mary S. and Louis S. Myers, 1977.20

Akron’s former role as a center for rubber manufacturing inspired Claes Oldenburg’s Inverted Q, but it is to Mary & Louis Myers that the work owes it existence. In 1972 they invited Oldenburg to Akron & asked him to propose a sculpture for a park adjoining the downtown library. A fan of Goodyear’s giant balloons in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Oldenburg was thrilled to collaborate with the rubber companies. Two years later, researchers & technicians at the rubber companies revealed that current technology did not permit the casting of such a massive form in rubber. In 1976, Oldenburg had Inverted Q cast in concrete. Inverted Q, based on the city’s history, has been one of the best-loved works in the museum’s collection.

You are a 4th grade student on a field trip at Akron Art Museum on a blustery grey, northeast Ohio day. Sitting on the warmed concrete floors amongst classmates, with angular steel & glass soaring overhead, a docent welcomes your group with reminders to walk & not run, look & not touch, share in the discussion, but raise your hand & do so quietly. She invites everyone to discover that your group has the museum to itself, as the doors are locked to the public at this early hour. Hmmm, what else is there to learn in a modern & contemporary art museum…

Hi! I’m Miss Maryann, and I am your docent today. A docent is an art museum teacher. Now, I know that you know all the rules, but we are going to explore the museum with all 5 senses today! What are the 5 senses? smell . sound . sight . touch . taste . “How are we going to look & not touch”, you ask? And what could we possibly taste?

Are you ready to TASTE a concrete sculpture?

Claes Oldenburg’s Strawberry Buttercream

Before my students know the title, author, or details of an artwork, we begin the exploration using our imagination. With awe they usually gather around Inverted Q and ask, “What is it?” and I reply, “What do you think it is?” After a silly discussion of what the sculpture looks like to them I ask, “What do you think Inverted Q would taste like?”

1 boxed cake mix prepared as 18 cupcakes
it’s okay to cheat on this one with a box mix the frosting is the star of the show for the buttercream frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter - softened
1 1/2 tsp strawberry extract
1–2 tbsp milk

1. mix powdered sugar & butter in a medium bowl (hand or stand mixer)
2. stir in strawberry & milk
3. fill a large ziploc-style bag with buttercream -cut off 1 corner tip
4. pipe an inverted Q onto each cupcake

Oldenburg wanted the sculpture to appear soft, inflated, & light, although it would be heavy. This buttercream is certainly soft & light, though rich & buttery.

Cooking with the Collection is made possible with support from Acme Fresh Market, the Henry V. and Frances W. Christenson Foundation, and the Samuel Reese Willis Foundation.