Ephemeral Art

Exploring the Wild Goose Festival on Saturday evening, I wandered into a small tent with a sign at the door saying “Imaginarium.” Inside was a mini art gallery, with pieces from several artists.

My timing couldn’t have been better, as artist Cyndi Gusler started her presentation soon after I arrived. The handful of us assembled were shown this short video, of Gusler creating an installation she called Disintegration out of coffee grounds.

After we watched the video, Gusler explained how she had arrived at this medium.

It was born out of an experience she had living on a coffee farm in the rainforest of Central America. She explained how the traditional “shade-grown” coffee uses a canopy of other plants, such as orange trees, over the coffee. The canopy plants protect the coffee, and provide mulch with fallen leaves. The canopy plants also provide a habitat for wildlife, including many birds. It is a sustainable means of producing coffee. However, corporations have discovered that they can grow more coffee faster by growing it in full sun, using chemical fertilizers. The proliferation of this method of coffee farming has led to the destruction of many parts of the rainforest, and the endangerment of wildlife.


For her “dry paintings,” Gusler collects used coffee grounds from coffee shops in the town where she lives and dries the grounds at her house. Disintegration features flora and fauna of the rainforest, which are in grave danger due to the proliferation of sun-grown coffee farms.

Disintegration shows the shadow of what was, using the material that has led to it’s destruction.

After the gallery show of Disintegration was over, Gusler swept up the coffee grounds and put them in the compost, “so they can infuse the earth with potential for growth.”

The conversation, led by Gusler, touched on the power of art, shadows, the ephemeral nature of existence, and how spirituality comes into play in the creative process. My mind was reeling with the perspectives shared.

As this delicate experience was occurring in the Imaginarium, the music from the main stage was so loud it was difficult to hear Gusler, who is soft spoken. Then a train went by. All of the distracting noise caused us to gather close and concentrate. In retrospect, it was a fitting context for this conversation.

Photo by Cody Troyer