Abuzz with artistry
Caffeine-inspired art goes on display at Coffee Festival

Jonathan Hammel’s three-dimensional paper sculpture, "Metamorphosis," was inspired by a play on the words “Kafka” and “Coffee.”/Photo by Jared Boyd

by Jules Masterjohn

Creative types and coffee have a long-held romantic relationship. Writers’ manuscripts show coffee-stained pages, and painters often accidentally dip color-covered brushes in their midnight cup o’ joe, mistaking it for a turpentine can. This Saturday, Durango will celebrate our culture’s relationship with coffee at the second annual Coffee Festival, sponsored by the Durango Adult Education Center to raise funds for its adult literacy programs. A special addition to this year’s festival is an exhibit of “coffee-inspired” art works.

The selection of artworks, though small in number, is broad in media and subject matter. Clearly, the few “creatives” who responded to the call for coffee-inspired art, saw different possibilities in the theme.

Much like the effects of coffee on my caffeine-acclimated physiology, from the hardly noticeable push of a decaf latte to the cardiac rush of a double espresso, the artworks differ in their ability to get my creative juices moving.

Three ceramic tiles by local Kim Cofman, each depicting a different shaped coffee mug colored with subtly textured glazes, are well crafted. She has chosen colors and glazes that enhance her simple designs and bring pleasure to the eye.

Ebony Ice, a Fort Lewis College art student, presents a unique self-portrait. The perspective of the painting is from the artist’s view, looking down on her upper legs with no feet in sight. This acrylic-on-canvas painting spotlights the various “coffee-colored tones” that Ice sees when she looks at her own legs – a conceptually creative angle on the coffee theme.

Even more oblique than Ice’s interpretation is Jonathon Hammel’s, which takes us deep into the creative psyche. He revealed, “I was thinking about drinking coffee while reading literature and the writer Franz Kafka came to mind. The wordplay between ‘Kafka’ and ‘coffee’ gave me the immediate idea to make a piece using a story by Kafka as the inspiration.”

Hammel, a versatile creator and self-espoused “wacky artist,” is currently enamored with using folded and cut paper to create three-dimensional images. He jumped right in and began making his low-relief paper sculpture, “BBBRRRNNGG,” for the Coffee Festival art show.

The paper sculpture is a colorful montage of a few imagined scenes from Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a surrealistic tale of physical and psychological transformation. Kafka’s protagonist, Gregor, wakes up one morning (thus Hammel’s onomatopoeic title, “BBBRRRNNGG”) to find that he has turned into a human-sized insect. Hammel pictures Gregor as a cockroach, his spindly vermin legs creepily realistic for being made of cut brown paper. Designed a bit like a storyboard for a film, Hammel uses his significant design skills to ever-so-slightly suggest the connection between Kafka’s story and the coffee-inspired theme.

If one isn’t familiar with the premise of Kafka’s story, the artwork may seem a bit absurd though Hammel gives some big clues to the viewer in his intricately crafted paper composition. A cockroach sits on a blue stool in a coffee house, an acid green coffee mug with the word “Coffka” inscribed is held in one of the roach’s many legs. An open book, with the title Metamorphosis written on the cover, is held in another. The tiny book even has individual pages tucked between its cover … amazing!

Rebecca Barfoot's ceramic teapot "Celedon Spiral" can be viewed in Durango Arts Center's Local Expressions gallery./Photo by Jared Boyd

If one isn’t familiar with the premise of Kafka’s story, the artwork may seem a bit absurd though Hammel gives some big clues to the viewer in his intricately crafted paper composition. A cockroach sits on a blue stool in a coffee house, an acid green coffee mug with the word “Coffka” inscribed is held in one of the roach’s many legs. An open book, with the title Metamorphosis written on the cover, is held in another. The tiny book even has individual pages tucked between its cover … amazing!

I asked him, “Why paper?” His response, “I dig the impermanence of it.” He admits, however, to holding a hankering for working with something a bit more beefy. In his mind he sees his family’s 11 acres of property in Bayfield as a display space for large-scale folded, bent and welded metal sculptures. These sculptures haven’t been created yet due to his combined roles as father, husband and professional sign-maker. But with more coffee to fuel the already energetic artist, there’s little doubt that Hammel will erect some mighty big things on his land some day.

Even without the literature connection, Hammel’s paper sculpture is a marvel in skill and patience. With more than 50 hours spent cutting and folding the paper to form all the dimensional pieces that create the scenes, Hammel deserves recognition for his attention to detail and his ability in verbal and visual creative connectivity.

Do make it to the festival to cast your vote for the best artwork on display. The first place winner will receive $100 and the second place winner will receive a coffee gift basket. If you don’t make it to the Coffee Festival on Saturday, the art will be on display at the Durango Coffee Co. on Main Avenue through September.

If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, head up to the Durango Arts Center’s Local Expressions Gallery to view “Pink,” an exhibit of work by pastel artist Bethany Bachmann and ceramic artist Rebecca Barfoot.

Barfoot, who uses porcelain to craft her wheel-thrown pottery and handbuilt wall pieces, displays teapots and teacups that are whimsical and fun. A set of five porcelain teacups covered in pinkish glaze with lustrous gold accents on each cup’s rim, are especially delightful.

The teacups hearken back to Granny’s china cabinet, their delicacy and preciousness apparent, yet Barfoot adds a contemporary wiggle to them.

Her throwing style is loose and free: the pottery displays a gestural quality that suggests a playful activation of the clay. Her tea sets, “Celedon Spiral” and “Tea for Two, Pink and Blue” look like they are ceramic vessels made while the potter was revved up on caffeine, ready to go … go … go! •

The exhibit, “Pink,” is on display at the Durango Arts Center through Sept. 25. The second annual Coffee Festival will take place on Sat., Sept. 9, from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Eighth Street between Main Avenue and the railroad tracks.

 

 

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