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Coffee Grounds


Coffee is second only to fuel oil in its ranking of top US imports. Coffee consumption in the States exceeds that of all but two countries in the world.

I’ve been collecting coffee grounds for one academic year—one afternoon single-brew at a time. I dump out the used grounds on a tray and set it on any vacant surface in my office to dry, eventually accumulating a vessel full of dried, used grounds.  It’s a slow and methodic way to gather one’s drawing medium, and a ritual part of the cycle of my ephemeral drawing.

My drawing process is direct, sprinkling coffee grounds onto sidewalk, pavement or floor; drawing back into them with a fingertip, blowing lightly to redistribute bits and shifting them with the edge of my hand as I sweep along contours.  A broom or a paintbrush functions as my eraser.

I use the ground bits of coffee beans to create images of things that have been destroyed as shade grown coffee forests are eradicated to allow for sun-grown coffee production. The shadow drawing here depicts rainforest birds, who signify both hope and loss as they represent the many, many species that have become rare of extinct as native forests are clear-cut in favor of the chemical and labor-intense shade-less production. A few of these birds have shown an aptitude for adaptation, trying to survive on the land now farmed with modern practices, including the use of pesticides.  They aren’t doing so well, however, as the pesticides kill the very insects which the birds enjoy dining on. The nest balances precariously on a branch, a tightrope, strung across the gallery with no visible supports.  Winding around the branches are ghost orchids whose roots suck water directly from the tree so they may survive without ever touching soil.

On the closing day of this show, I will sweep up the drawing, put the grounds back into my container and take them home where I will fling them onto my compost pile. The elements of life that still exist in these twice-used grounds will infuse the compost with richness, which next Spring will enhance my soil, growing produce that energizes me for my next creative project.

                                                            -Cyndi Gusler

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