The other day I was on my way to painting class in my university’s Visual Arts building, and I was walking past some displays of art made by the graduating BFA students.
I passed one student, who appeared to be putting up some shelves to display art.
One shelf was already up, and held a very industrial looking and colourful coffee pot, and a old, worn, coffee mug, with a thin film of liquid at the bottom where the coffee had partially dried onto it. Beside it, there was a single nail set into the wall, a little higher up, upon which hung a green and blue plaid jacket. The jacket was well worn, too, fraying a little at the sleeves.
I paused to look at the work, and wondered what the artist was trying to say here. It was making a statement of some kind, I could tell. Small scale domestic interiors? Identity as reflected by morning routine? Interrupted moments? Time? Material objects as markers of….
The artist turned around, and caught my gaze, followed it to his piece.
He stared for a second, then laughed.
”Oh, shit, no, that’s just my coffee and coat. Didn’t want to put them on the floor. I’m actually taking these shelves down. But, hey, it’s cool. I spent like five minutes once staring at the exit door in a gallery of modern art, trying to figure out the point of the piece.”
I confessed to him I’d done the same, once, and kept walking.
I feel like there’s a lesson to be had here, some profound truth about accidental discoveries of beauty, the sublime in the banal, the artistic process, but then again….
It might just be a freaking coffee mug.