The Artist Contemplates His Meager Life

What is that mystical chain of events that brings us to be exactly what and where we are at this exact given moment. If I hadn't taken that tumble from my tricycle at four would I not now possibly be a brain surgeon? (I think I can still call brain surgeons brain surgeons without getting into trouble with the politically correct elite.) If you delve perhaps too deeply into astro and micro physics and some fur'n religions, you will come to know and understand that by merely poking a finger in the air that it will have an effect on Pluto. Pluto is a planet that last year became a non-planet, but I believe is now regained planet status for some commercial reasons. The theory behind the finger poke, I believe, is that when you move air molecules they, in turn, move other molecules...and so on, ad infinitum until some wee little molecule on Pluto goes, "Oh that must have been my friend Jules, on Earth, I wish he wouldn't do that while I was napping." We don't want to delve on this too long, contemplatively speaking...but it does give us some idea of our true size in perspective when we break it all down. This petite wee smallness concept came a'conflagrating to my attention this week when I was made aware of a quote that had run in the big Sunday paper that circulates around these parts. Blazoned in a headline was the quote, "When people ask me if there is anything nobody collects yet, I say Styrofoam cups. But who knows, somebody will probably start." (quote by Chuck Dorion, flea market dealer). This quote initiated some number of people to send me the section of the paper with that quote in it. They knew I was a collector and had been for years. The people who contacted me know that I am this state's, if not the nation's, nay if not the world's preeminent collector of those polystyrene beauties that so demurely grace landfills across this great planet of ours. You gotta love those lovable little discarded "one usage" bundles of pollution. These folks knew that if there was a story about Styrofoam that I would want to hear about it...and I did want to hear about it, dammit. Styrofoam makes for some of the best reading around. If you Google "Styrofoam cup" you can get up to 44,000 possibilities. I'm sure more than a few of them have got to be collectors. When ever I find an interesting story about this medium I pass it around. I was looking at various Styrofoam cup related sites on the Web the other day when I come across an article about a group of the students at the College of Fine Arts in South Australia who, one morning went through the college's cafeteria garbage reclaiming these cups from the waste-stream and making them into a number of sizable artistic towers to exemplify just what the students and faculty were doing to the environment in just one morning. So I emailed and told them that I a sculpted polystyrene cups for a living. I may hear back from them, I may not. As an aside, I told them that I was the designer of the South Australia Driver licence (they spell licence like that in the land Down Under, licence...something I found out the hard way by presenting them with a sample piece using our spelling, license). As an aside to my aside, I once did a design job for one of England's departments that deals with one political function or another and on the back of an ID card it was to say Dept H8...that's all, Dept H8. Well, I misspelled it. The misspelling got through my supervisor, the design committee, the printer, the sales representation group all the way back to England. It did not get by the British. Oh well, c'est la vie. Let me share a Billy Collins Styrofoam cup tale. Billy Collins being the present Poet Laureate of the United States of America as appointed by the Library of Congress. I wrote a poem that I thought he might perhaps enjoy and perhaps comment on and sent it off in a letter not too long ago. Usually efforts like this go unanswered. In this particular case, I got a response written by Billy himself. He said, "Thank you for sending me the letter and your poem. I am in awe over your ability to transform the lowly styrofoam cup into art. Keep up the amazing work." No mention here about keeping up the poetry. Nonetheless, I did get a nice nod for my Styrofoam cup collection. If I see someone just finishing using a Styrofoam cup and I know they are going to trash it, I will go to them and ask if I could have it. I jot their name on the inside and take it home. I have never bought a Styrofoam cup for my priceless collection. They are all "acquired". This is all pretty heady stuff, huh? Styrofoam is a registered trademark of Dow chemical...most people use the word to refer to polystyrene, the generic term. I usually try to say that to keep myself out of trouble with them. I don't know what the other 43,999 other folks whose sites I googled treat the word, but I try to treat it with respect. So, if there were a crux to this article, it would be to please pass along any Styrofoam cups stories you might have. I enjoy them. I might also encourage you to always try to spell words right and don't venture into poetry if you don't belong there. p.s. My spell checker picked out three words here, ironically..."licence", "Dept." and "misspell", you see, it ain't all that easy.

J. Jules Vitali is a sculptor, columnist and poet who resides in Freeport, Maine. He is the creator of the art form, StyrogamiTM which can be seen on the web at For the months of July his work can be seen at the Ship's Inn Museum on Bustins Island, Maine and at the Shockoe Tomato Festival in Richmond, Virginia on July 19th. He is also an Artist in Cellophane (