One man's trash, another artist's treasure
"The vorpal blade went snicker - snack," cutting cleanly through
the yielding Styrofoam receptacle. The mind buzzed with creativity, finding
solace from the monotonous drones of the company meeting in the eternity
of possibilities contained within the parameters of that small cup. What
had once held a single serving of hot coffee now contained the outlet
for the artistically burdened thoughts of one Jules Vitali.
'Styrofoam cups?' The doubt that one might initially express upon hearing
of such an unconventional medium quickly dissipates, however, after taking
a few turns around the exhibition of Vitali's work, housed in the Lamarche
lounge of Smith Union through October.
Each piece was made from a cup, but the similarities end there. From
the Primitive pieces - plain Styrofoam, to the acrylic pieces, to the
lacquer and enamel pieces, to the brónze pieces--all reflected
a previously untapped creativity. Just as the dimensions of a square of
paper become lost in the folds of origami, the shape of the vessel disappeared
into the explosion of carefully rendered and assembled shards that has
been christened Styrogami.
The common eight-ounce Styrofoam cup has been Vitali's vehicle for aesthetic
exploration since 1982 when he first took out his small, razor sharp jackknife
and got "a little bit creative." Since then, Vitali's Craftsman
jackknife, an edition no longer made, has helped him imprint his vision
on over a thousand cups.
The display in Lamarche lounge is the sampling of a genre created on
the go. At meetings, in line, and even waiting for his daughter to be
born in the hospital - when given the canvas of the cup and a few idle
moments to spare, Vitali snaps open his knife and carves.
Reactions to Vitali's work is sharply divided: Vitali said that "people
either see them as Styrofoam cups or they see them as art - there is no
middle ground." The positive reactions, however, are "very positive."
Ignoring the reactions of critics, Vitali sees two very different sides
in his own work. "There is a fun, light side
but there is alsoa
dark side" said Vitali. The pieces can be "cutesy and kind of
fun" and pleasing to children, noting his sculptures of mermaids
and ships. On the other hand, there are also deep moral and ecological
implications connected to his use of Styrofoam as a medium.
Vitali has "never bought a Styrofoam cup in [his] life" and
"can't stand Styrofoam and the 'throwaway' philosophy that it represents."
But, he noted that his "meager efforts
have taken at least a
thousand of them [Styrofoam cups] out of landfills and turned them into
Trash? Yes. Art? Definitely. For Vitali, the canvas may be in the form of seemingly mundane Styrofoam cups, but none can dispute the fact that Styrogami is already leaving a mark on the world. His work will be on display in Lamarche Lounge, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., throughout October.