If you've ever wondered what it would look like if Damien Hirst stuffed a turkey, or how Salvador Dalí would serve a home-cooked meal, look no further than painter, illustrator, sculpture, digital artist, and, as of last Thanksgiving, food artist Hannah Rothstein. Even if that particular question has never wandered into your head, in her Thanksgiving Special works, the way she manipulates cranberry sauce, corn, and mashed potatoes to evoke the style of iconic artists like Keith Haring, Gustav Klimt, and Kara Walker—is impressive.
Rothstein fell down the rabbit hole of fine art-inspired plating last year, mimicking Mondrian, Magritte, and Picasso using American comfort food. Her new series, fully named Thanksgiving Special: Seconds, expands the thought experiment to new mediums, most notably a replica of Hirst's The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, with a turkey instead of a taxidermied shark.
"Most of these plates were made with the basic elements of the Thanksgiving meal—turkey, cranberry, stuffing, gravy, mashed potato, green beans, and corn," Rothstein says of her process. With her second-go at the concept, she got a little bit experimental: "I used a knife, dowel, and rag to, respectively, shape pieces, draw lines, and wipe up conniving stray marks. Some required extra bits of flair—gold paint for the Klimt, fabric and twine for the Christo."
The most eyebrow raising of Rothstein's creations is, of course, the Hirst. Did she actually preserve a whole turkey for the sake of a holiday-themed art project? "As is often the case, the truth is unglamorous: This image was, for the most part, built out digitally," she reveals. "I didn't think my housemates would appreciate having the smell of formaldehyde wafting through the kitchen."
For those looking to recreate her work with your undoubtedly plentiful Thanksgiving leftovers, here is Rothstein's most vital advice. "Rule #1: Always have a clean rag on hand! You often end up with unplanned marks when plating, and wiping these off at the end makes a very noticiable difference." She honed her craft through trial and error, achieving really satisfying results with no formal culinary training. She continues, "Also, sketch out your design, or at least have a solid composition in mind, when you begin. Thoughtful foundations lead to better results." That's sound advice regardless of whether or not your art is edible.
Check out a few of Rothstein's creations below:
See the rest of Thanksgiving Special: Seconds on Hannah Rothstein's website. Limited edition Thanksgiving Special prints purchased from her store will contribute to the SF Marin Food Bank to help families who can't afford their own Thanksgiving meals.