Smile Politely

Figure One art gallery awakens a new artistic style

When I first heard that Figure One art gallery had combined my two loves, I was there faster than the biggest fan of Folgers. Coffee and art can be brought together when a person in a plaid scarf and bifocals decides to feel fancy for a day (ahem, me), but hearing of art made out of coffee was more than a joy to my already highly caffeinated ears. Actually seeing the art showed me the creativity and imagination beyond the cup. I sipped like a champ.

Possibly one of the best things about the entire gallery was the simplicity, yet depth, of each piece. Similar to a cup of coffee, each display reflects the calm before the sip, but the energy behind the making of that one special cup. The lights were bright, the vivacity of the room was high, and in the corner a student sung the words of Otis Redding. It was a time to swig and observe.

The list of inspiring art in the gallery runs high, but a few stood out to my caffeinated brain as simply brilliant.

It began with Caffenient by Donna Carnow.

This work –which used straw wrappers, sugar packets, stirring rods, and coffee cup sleeves– highlighted the amount of waste consumers use in attempts to satisfy their lifestyles. According to Carnow’s explanation, “we value convenience over sustainability, especially when it comes to people getting their caffeine fix.” Now, I most certainly cannot imagine creating a work of art out of disposable items from coffee, yet alone knowing how to put it together to create something as beautiful as this piece of art. I was impacted by the message of this piece. While displaying what we as coffee lovers enjoy, it also points out an issue that plagues us as a society in luxury. Carnow’s work spoke out to me as both a lover of caffeine and member of society.

Next in line was Coffee Fantasy by Xiaomei Qi. It was a piece that combined both present and past loves. 

Do you remember Piglet: the over-anxious best pal of Winnie the Pooh that often stuttered when needed to speak? Well, take a look at him now. He’s relaxing, and in Qi’s work, it seems that he has found peace at last. Qi writes, “Maybe we can live in a world full of beautiful coffee smell. It’s a fairy tale…so next time in the cartoon Winnie the Pooh, we can have a group of animals feed on coffee, not on honey.” This piece really speaks to those who enjoy coffee as more of an escape than a habit. The fresh smell of coffee is something we can identify almost everywhere. So, maybe in those few moments of breathing in the freshness of the drink, we are living a fairy tale.

Last but not least amongst my highly caffeinated night of wonder was a piece as creative in its name as it was with its purpose. Morning Messages and Late Night Neuroses called out the artist in us all. 

This display, clad with mugs and chalk, allowed guests to splash their own form of creativity in the gallery. Attendees were asked to write their own messages on the mugs that best symbolized their love for the drink in the morning or at night. From “it gives you life” to “coffee rocks” small words scribbled on the mugs gave everyone the chance to face their inner artist.

Beyond the Cup will be on display at Figure One art gallery until Jan. 16. While the time remains, go have a sip and see the wonder for yourself. 

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