I’ve become sort of an art junkie as a result of this blog, seeking visual stimulation like it’s my drug. That’s how I ended up rattling door handles at the UO fine arts studios off of Franklin on Onyx. All of the doors were locked with keypads, but nothing was going to stop me from getting a hit. I recruited a nice ceramics student named Madi to be my enabler and ended up in the super secret Washburn ceramics gallery.
That’s where I encountered a mass of dismembered limbs and shattered bones, rolls of yellow tape, and those chalk outlines you always see on CSI. Oh, except this wasn’t television. It was real, and it was shocking.
At least it must have been for Kate Kalal when she found out that the walls of the Washburn gallery aren’t as sturdy as they look. In an instant, two shelves fell and forty mugs were utterly obliterated. A whole summer’s worth of work was gone.
“Walking in on it was like seeing the death of a loved one,” Kalal wrote in the obituary, I mean, artist’s statement. “It was criminal and the only culprit was gravity.”
Madi and I stood gawking at the piece. “What would you have done?” I asked her.
“I think I would just cry and sweep it up,” she said. “I don’t think I would be that genius.”
It was truly a brilliant fix, and though the original intent of the mug series (to present a mysterious Morse code message that was dotted across them) was lost, whole new ideas and meanings were born. The mugs are fragile, beautiful, lovingly crafted. You can feel the deep, tactile connection that Kalal made with each mug as she whirled it into existence. The details of the crime scene, from the orange marks around the nail holes in the wall to the somber plaque referring to the mugs as a “clan” show real sorrow even in their comedy.
As I walked out of the gallery feeling temporarily satiated, bits of ceramic crunched under my feet. I shivered.
BONUS FUN: Here’s Kalal’s response to the post and discussion about what she’s doing post-tragedy on the Talkback page!