Beverly Shipko’s first exposure to fancy food came at the side of her grandfather, a Russian immigrant to Michigan who operated a gourmet grocery store in Detroit. He filled his display cases with beautifully prepared foods of all kinds, including sweets that seduced Shipko and made her dreamy. “My father was a dentist,” she said. “I didn’t get to have a lot of candy and sweets.”

The vision of three-berry pies, fruit cheesecakes and forbidden chocolate live in her memory and in her art. This month, the New York artist shows dozens of her oil paintings of ice cream, cakes, pies and other delicious-looking temptations at the newly renovated Michael Good Gallery on Commercial Street in Rockport. The exhibition, “You CAN Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too,” is on view through Aug. 1, and the gallery hosts a reception for Shipko from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 8. The reception will include edible versions of the kinds of foods that Shipko creates in her paintings and drawings.

“When I think of memories of food, I think about those beautiful gift baskets with cellophane and bows that my grandfather sold,” she said, conjuring her childhood from the 1950s and ’60s. “They were so beautiful. It was a gourmet store, so the displays were big and beautiful and tempting. That’s when I started thinking about the presentation of food.”

Her love of food and its display became a focus of her creative life. She got a job in advertising to support her work as an artist, and was assigned to accounts of candy manufacturers, which allowed her access to endless boxes of candy bars and chocolate. One of her first jobs involved a photo shoot for Twix candy bars. It was her responsibility to break up bars to prepare them for the photo. “I sat there for two days breaking candy for the shot. That is all I did,” she said. “That kind of gave me the idea to paint broken cookies or half-eaten candies and cakes. Working in advertising proved to be very good for me. It was artistic. It was all about design and communication and what things look like and how people perceive them. It all came together for me after that.”

Beverly Shipko, at work on “Falling Blueberries,” oil on linen, 16 by 20 inches. Photo courtesy of Beverly Shipko

She’s been painting food for about 20 years, drawing on her childhood art lessons at the Detroit Institute of Art and a pair of art history degrees. She sees her work following in an artistic tradition of painting food that dates to the time of the Roman Empire and ancient Egypt, when pharaohs were packed for the afterlife with ample food to get them through. We know this, because their stories were illustrated on the walls of the tombs by artists, who depicted porters carrying fish, fruit and fowl for the long journey of the dearly departed.

Henri Matisse populated his interior views with plates of fruit and seafood, and American art history tells a story of a long line of painters devoted to still-lifes of plates of food.

For a long time, Shipko paid attention to the career of American pop artist Wayne Thiebaud, a contemporary painter whose colorful images of gum ball machines and candy counters have made him popular with museum curators. She did not want to appear to be a copycat, so she tried to avoid similar subjects. As her own career developed, so did her confidence and self-expression. A few years ago, she decided, “Enough worrying about Wayne Thiebaud. I am going to paint what I want.”

In Maine, her closest contemporary may be Justin Richel, whose paintings and sculptures of sweets have long resonated with the art crowd. The Portland Museum of Art is showing Richels’ “Endless Column” of cakes and teapots, which tempts visitors to sit and snack.

Shipko lives in Westchester County, New York, just outside of New York City. The show at the Michael Good Gallery came about by chance. She visited the gallery last summer, and began a conversation with gallery manager Avi Good, who invited Shipko to show her work because it was too good to resist. “I just want to lick these paintings. You look at them and you say, ‘Oh my god, I want to eat that,’ ” Good said. “She has great technique, and they are just fun. It’s hard to find paintings that cross such a broad spectrum. You look at them and you understand what they are. There’s nothing confusing about them, and they are compositionally excellent.”

Shipko compares painting to cooking. Both activities are creative and technically challenging, and both require the personal flair of the creator to distinguish the work. She views the act of applying paint to canvas as similar to spreading a cream-cheese frosting over thick, rich layers of cake. The canvas is her cake, the paint her frosting. In some of her paintings, she simulates crumbs by creating texture in the paint.

She’s adept in the kitchen, and cooks now more than she ever has. But she has to be mindful of her time, she said, “because if I am cooking that means I am not painting.”

She learned from her career in advertising that painting food is a hard thing to do well, just as it’s challenging to take photos of food that make it look as fresh as it is in real life. Food is perishable, and ice cream melts. She began down this path before digital photography, and learned to work quickly.

“Food is perishable,” she said. “Even though you think that it’s going to stick around for awhile, it doesn’t. If I tried to paint ice cream, I would have 10 minutes to get the image before it would melt,” she said. “I remember bringing home a fruit tart and painting that, and after three or four hours in, all these fruit flies came out. It’s organic, and sometimes it changes.”

One of her specialties is painting sauces, syrups and other toppings as they ooze. She likes finding just the right moment when a fruit sauce drips over the edge of a cake and spills onto the dish. It’s like a still-life in motion.

A decade ago, she bought a refrigerator with a large freezer so she could preserve her desserts in whatever state she liked best and pull them out a few days later to keep working on them.

Blueberry Cheesecake, by Beverly Shipko, Oil on panel, 6 x 6 inches

Another specialty are half-eaten Oreo cookies, a concept that dates to her days on the Twix candy bar account, when she prepared for a photo shoot by breaking up the candies. She got the idea to paint half-eaten Oreos during a community open house at her studio, which she hosts every year. She invited people to take a bite from a cookie, and if she used their cookie in her paintings or drawings, she named the piece for that person.

“It becomes their portrait,” she said. “Everyone is different. Everyone bites cookies differently. You don’t think about it, but there is personality in the way people eat.”

She has about 70 paintings and drawing in the exhibition. Some, like the Oreo cookies, are small. Others, like the colorful display cases filled with pies and cakes, are nearly life-size. At least one painting from Maine is in the show – a painting of a lobster, based on her visit last summer. She spent a lot of time in Portland last year, and was impressed with the city’s food culture. She took lots of pictures.

Shipko will talk about her work and her history with food during the reception at the gallery on Saturday.

No doubt, her grandfather will be part of the conversation. His name was Sidney Fishman, and as she gets older she thinks about him often. Every year, he traveled to New York to attend food shows and returned to Detroit with exotic things no one had ever seen before, she said.

“Other people were bringing home candies and cookies and cakes, and my grandfather was bringing home chocolate-covered ants and grasshoppers. They tried to get me try one, but I wouldn’t do it.”

If not for him and his beautiful display cases of gourmet food, Shipko probably wouldn’t be an artist.

“I think those early years are very formative. Food was something that I was familiar with growing up, and I ended up working in it many, many years in different capacities,” she said. “I thought I would run out of ideas or things to paint, but we’ve had this proliferation of bakeries and restaurants, so I just keeping painting.”