Carb face (detail), 2016. Mixed
media; Food diaries, asorted ribbon. yarn, pipe cleaners, Christmas
tinsel, silk cord, sequins, various hair accessories. brownie pan on
plywood. 41'' x 36'' x 41'' dimensions variable
ERIKA ROTH's intimately personal work speaks to several interconnected and widespread experiences—food addiction, body image
and celebrity worship. In collages and assemblage sculpture, she
combines her daily food diaries and images from celebrity gossip
magazines with “female vernacular” materials like hair accessories,
braids and ribbons. Following in the lineage of the feminist artists of the 1970s, she calls attention to pervasive cultural attitudes, reminding us that "the personal is political." Erika received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design
and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. In 2016 she completed a year and a half long residency at Brooklyn Art Space. Her many group shows in New York include Trestle Project's recent A Symptom of the Universe,
which highlighted artists as seers whose artworks "reflect shifts and
departures in the collective unconscious." In December 2016, she was
included in Project Gallery's exhibition at Aqua Art Miami, part of Art
Basel Miami. In October 2016, Hyperallergic commented on “the popping textile assemblages of Erika Roth," shown at Gowanus Open Studios 2016. Erika lives and works in Brooklyn.
OtherPeoplesPixels: How do you think about excess, in your life, in contemporary culture and in your art practice?
Erika Roth: I am always interested in exploration, process, investigation, and discovery when making my work. I always make sure I have plenty of my supplies around me to make my work. I love to get my materials from the 99 cent store, where I can buy as much as I need. It takes a lot of material to make my work. I love craft materials because there is no scarcity—I can have as much as I want. The accumulation of materials gives my work a richness, a feeling that the work is alive, that it has vitality.
In my life there is no such thing as excess! I stockpile food, toiletries, gym clothes, even studio space and counter space in my kitchen. I always make sure I have enough of these things or spaces in my day to day life, which offers a kind of safety and security.
Anxiety, 2014. Mixed
media; Food diaries, crimped curling ribbon, organza ribbon, sequins,
small jewels, picture from magazine, gloss medium, pen, on canvas. 36" x 36"
OPP: What led you to shift away from rectangular, (more or less) two-dimensional work towards sculpture? It seems like Devoted to Suffering might have been the turning point.
ER: Yes, Devoted to Suffering was a kind of transition in my work. With most of my 2D work, I was trying to depict remnants or fragments that make up a landscape of thoughts from a woman who is obsessed with body image and food. The rectangle was a kind of snapshot into this world, for just a moment.
the 3D works became more of an evoking of an experience, really
dramatizing the story of a woman who is obsessed with food and body
image. The sculptural works let me invite the viewer in to experience
There was also a practical part of my evolution from 2D to 3D work. Before I got a studio I had very limited space to work in. When I found studio space I started thinking differently about the work, imagining it in a gallery setting. So I started to have the mental and physical space for the work to grow.
media; Food diaries, crimped curling ribbon, holographic curling
ribbon, cut out picture from magazine, gloss medium, pen on canvas. 30" x 30"
OPP: Can you talk about the legibility (or illegibility) of the text in pieces like Skinny (2011), Creamsicle (2010) and Pink Frosting (2009) from the series food diaries? How important is it that viewers read this early work?
ER: When making my early work it was not that important to me that the text was legible. I was satisfied if a viewer could read or recognize a few words here and there. I was mainly interested in using and making my own materials at that time to depict some feelings and thoughts I had about food addiction. My own food diaries, where I write down what I eat each day, became the ground color for these works. I incorporated into my art a very personal part of my own story.
OPP: Tell us about your recurring materials: curling ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads, hair accessories. What attracts you?
bonesunderneath, 2015. Mixed media; Magazine pictures, notebook paper, sticker, fake nails, googly eyes on baking sheet. 18.5" x 15"
I love my spools of ribbon for their colors and surfaces, and I use
them as paint. I can do volumes of exploration with ribbon, as opposed
to paint, which is more precious and costly. These materials are
readily available and inexpensive, so that I can transform them into my
own art materials without even going to an art supply store. Like the
pages from one of my spiral bound food diaries, these are ordinary
things that I mold into something more precious.
My materials are domestic. I use them to create the fabric of an ordinary woman's life. I use hair accessories partly because they hold things together. But these items also evoke gender and are very recognizable. I juxtapose the hand-made braids and the drugstore bought hair accessories to create a context where people can connect to my work, and they can find their own meaning.
Never ending Narrative, 2016. Mixed media; Food diaries, polyppylene film, ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads,
glitter, rhinestones, pony tail holders scrunchy, barrettes, silk cord,
sequins, journal, on canvas. 36'' x 84'' dimensions variable.
OPP: How do these materials relate to “the psychological
landscape of food addiction, that gorgeous nightmare of attraction and
ER: My work is autobiographical. It is my own story in my own voice regarding my relationship with food. In some of my work I have created cakes and brownies that I cannot eat. I make them beautiful and appealing but at the same time they are inedible. They evoke the nightmare of attraction and resistance.
OPP: Do you ever receive the critique that your work is “art therapy” because of its psychological and emotional content? How do you respond?
ER: I have never received that critique, but trust me. . . I am working out something, consciously or unconsciously, in my studio.
I cherish all my misery, 2016. From A Symptom of The Universe, Trestle Projects, Brooklyn, NY.
OPP: You employ chains, braids, twisted cord and yarn in your
recent sculptures and installations. How does this visual motif—the form
as opposed to the material—underscore the content of your work?
ER: The visual motifs in my work come from my love of glamorous fashion accessories, female memories, and domestic rituals. The chains are inspired by my love for Chanel handbags and accessories from the 80s and 90s. They also speak about being held down, in bondage to something that is outside of you. Braids are one of the first hairstyles we may learn for ourselves in early adolescence. We may have memories of a mother braiding our hair. The hair accessories are nostalgic to me and are part of a female vernacular. The twisted cords and yarns remind me of childhood art projects in school or at summer camp.
People have told me that my work looks alive, that my sculptures come across as creatures, that they have a kind of vitality. I think the visual motifs contribute to this feeling.
Surrendered, 2016. Mixed Media. 7' x 5.5' x 3.5' variable
OPP: Since food addiction is a common and often misunderstood
issue, what do you want your viewers to understand about it? Do you feel
a sense of responsibility that viewers learn
ER: For viewers who can identify personally, I want them to realize that they are not alone, that their struggles with food addiction are real, and that there is help and support out there, that they need to reach out and ask for it.
Featured Artist Interviews are conducted by Chicago-based artist Stacia Yeapanis. When she’s not writing for OPP, Stacia explores the relationship between repetition, desire and impermanence in cross-stitch embroideries, remix video, collage and impermanent installations. She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Fiber and Material Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where received her MFA in 2006, and was a 2011-2012 Artist-in-Residence at BOLT in Chicago. Her solo exhibitions include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (2013) at Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University (Adrian, Michigan), Everything You Need is Already Here (2014) at Heaven Gallery (Chicago) and When Things Fall Apart, in the Annex Gallery at Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago). Stacia created site-responsive installations for two-person show Form Unbound (2015) at Dominican University's O’Connor Art Gallery (River Forest, IL) and SENTIENCE (2016) at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Her work was recently included in SHOWROOM, curated by Edra Soto, at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition. Stacia is currently preparing for a two-person show titled Resist the Urge to Press Forward with Brent Fogt at Riverside Art Center (Riverside, Illinois) and Sacred Secular, a solo show at Indianapolis Arts Center in Indiana.