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Alysha Lach, a local student, is entering ArtPrize this year with a series of 365 individual illustrations that document the various ways coffee factors into daily life. The piece is called "Cup of Life" and Lach, an employee at The Bitter End Coffee House where the piece is being displayed, says the inspiration stemmed largely from the graveyard shifts she works at the coffee shop.
“The idea formed during one of my shifts at the coffeehouse at three in the morning,” Lach explains. She originally toyed with several concepts, but eventually landed on the idea of multiple pieces forming a greater installation. “The idea evolved into an installation piece, using the old walls of the coffeehouse as a backdrop rather than a frame, to allow the pieces to flow more naturally in an interesting way.”
Each piece is the size of the bottom of a coffee cup, and the only color used on these otherwise black and white illustrations comes from coffee itself. Each piece is also framed by a coffee ring, which lends an almost aged quality to the work. The feeling it creates is sort of like the illustrations were left behind after each individual cup of coffee was finished.
While some of the drawings just show a single cup of coffee or a method for brewing it, the majority depict the coffee as it relates to the people drinking it.
“A large portion of them are regular customers in a “portrait” style,” Lach says of the illustrations. “I love sequence, I love narrative. I love that the illustrations have taken on a “graphic” quality and embrace imperfections, like they came from their own comic.”
Lach says having the series housed at Bitter End contributes vitally to the overall meaning of the piece.
“The venue is the center of the inspiration for the piece. As the feel changes through the day and into the night, so does the way people enjoy coffee.”
Though there have been some hiccups during the installation phase of the piece, Lach has kept a level head and improvised.
“Fortunately this is the type of competition where there is leniency for the unpredictable,” she says. “More often than not the buzz it produces is more entertaining for the voters anyway.”
Her entry for ArtPrize has also provided an opportunity for Lach to grow as an artist and develop some new strengths. “I am accustomed to realism in my illustration, and it was really nice to work outside of my comfort zone and illustrate something more free-form and expressive.”
The Bitter End will be hosting a reception for the piece on Saturday, September 29 from noon to 5 p.m., and Lach will be there, sketching a couple more pieces to add to the series.
Although I originally hail from Northern California's Bay Area, I moved to Grand Rapids in November of last year and have happily installed myself in my new post-grad, East Town life. I work part-time at a local bookstore, and when I'm not in the store peddling their wares I'm usually at home reading them. The Rapidian is my first writing gig, but I've been thoroughly enjoying it and learning a lot, so I hope I can keep throwing things out there to be published, and who knows: maybe I can keep doing this when I grow up. In the meantime I shall continue on in this vein, watching re-runs of Frasier and The West Wing between my article-writing and reading endeavors.