Caf-fiend: One Cup Is Never Enough

My childhood dream was the thought of waking up to a bowl full of sweet sugary cereal. The reality? Waking up to plain oatmeal (which could have been healthy if my father hadn't micro-waved it). Of course I could have changed my breakfast destiny but my Dad was always up two hours before me and well, destiny liked to sleep in. While the radioactivity unfortunately didn’t make me a teenage superhero with gluten charged powers, the memory popped up when I stumbled across Toronto based artist Erin Rothstein's work. With my culinary school background and her simply delicious, hyper realistic food paintings I knew we were destined to talk about food and art. Through a wonderful 9 a.m. Skype call ( no sleep-ins here!) I spoke with my fellow Canadian about breakfast woes, the hell of painting purple cabbage and the best meal of her life.

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

Artparasites: What did you have for breakfast?

Erin Rothstein: I just had some oatmeal (Me: blaghhh) and am drinking a latte.

A slice of burnt toast never looked so good. Photo courtesy of Erin Rothstein

APs: Where did the whole food obsession start?

ER: I have always been a big foodie. So when I was thinking of my next series, it seemed like the most fun, beautiful thing to paint. It stimulates so many emotions in the viewers, making people nostalgic and hungry. It’s the perfect subject matter.

APs: Are there any tastes from your childhood that bring back memories?

ER: This is something I haven’t painted yet. I have always loved pasta and noodles of any sort; I think a great subject would be plain noodles.

That God damn purple cabbage. Photo: courtesy of Erin Rothstein

APs: We’ve all experienced cooking disasters, have you had any meltdowns with painting?

ER: Some pieces are a pleasure to work with from the get go, others, not the case. My most challenging painting was the purple cabbage. It's all one interconnected swirl and I almost went blind doing it. I don’t trace my work [doing it by eye] and had to repaint that one 5 times. Afterwards, all I could see were purple swirls.

Ten years later: the cruel and bitter reality is not only did I get screwed over with my radioactive superpowers; I'm now also intolerant to gluten (and trust me, there is nothing super about that).

APs: Will you ever produce a gluten free series for all those allergy sufferers?

ER: I always tell people it could be gluten free bread! A rice cracker would be hilarious though. 

Erin Rothstein blurs the lines between a studio space and a supermarket. Photo courtesy of the artist

APs: What is your recipe to art? A dash of color, a sprinkle of texture?

ER:  I wish! The secret recipes is being confident from the beginning. I never paint things because I think other people will like them. I have to have a vision of the finished version and be very confident in what that final product will be like. If I am painting an avocado, I will eat an avocado every day; I paint chocolate, I eat chocolate; I paint coffee, I drink coffee (and I paint faster).

A sweet caffeine swan dive. Photo: courtesy of Erin Rothstein

APs: The best meal of your life?

ER: It was in Italy when I was studying drawing. There were big communal meals; eight courses and we would finish at 1am in the morning. For my birthday they brought out this giant vat of tiramisu that could have fed an army, but me and four of my friends devoured it and passed out – the best moment of my life. Italians take so much joy in their food; they don’t take the freshness for granted- so that’s how I approach my meals and my art.

So in my adult years I did finally get my taste buds on some of that sugary, encrusted cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch to be exact) and, digestion problems aside, I will admit: it tasted pretty sweet. Reflecting now on Rothstein's words, I know that having this cereal wouldn't have made my childhood any better – and now I'm unable to eat it anyway. Life isn't about artificial desires. Life is the fact that my father always made breakfast for me and now I miss my morning oatmeal more than anything (even if it was radioactive gluten).

Artist Erin Rothstein [Price range of works 100 – 6000 Dollars]

Article by Tristan Boisvert