Merriam-Webster defines convergence as “the act of moving toward union or uniformity, especially: coordinated movement of the two eyes so that the image of a single point is formed on corresponding retinal areas,” and “the merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole.”
Dictionary.com calls synchronicity “an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated.”
While I was mulling over this post, trying to decide which of the two terms was more applicable to my recent experience, my friend Tom Fiffer posted this on Facebook:
In 1997, artist Clark Whittington repurposed an old cigarette vending machine to sell his photographs, thus giving birth to the first Art-o-mat. Today, more than 90 machines dispense the miniature works of hundreds of artists worldwide, in venues ranging from a coffee shop in Boise, Idaho, to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
According to the Art-o-mat web site:
Artists in Cellophane (A.I.C.), the sponsoring organization of Art-o-mat, is based on the concept of taking art and “repackaging” it to make it part of our daily lives. The mission of A.I.C. is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form.
I first learned of Art-o-mat about a decade ago, but I had never seen the real thing until I accompanied photographer Suzin Porter to RayKo Photo Center, in San Francisco, where she picked up the flash that she used when she took the picture above. I might have squealed when I saw the machine, and then I rushed to the counter to buy the $5 token needed to acquire my first mystery art. After much deliberation, I selected a piece by Andy Mathis, whose business-card-size placard showed watercolors of animals.
I opened my cellophane-wrapped treasure to find a varnished print of a cat entitled Maybelline, complete with a tiny display “easel” fashioned from the business card of “Andy Mathis, Veterinarian/Watercolor Artist.” I was both delighted and intrigued.
Visiting Andy’s web site reminded me that when we say, “I’d love to (write, paint, play guitar), but I just don’t have the time,” it is a big, fat lie.
You see, Andy didn’t retire and take up painting—he took a class and started painting shortly after finishing veterinary school! And he just kept painting—and marketing. Many of the proceeds from his sales support animal charities, and he does targeted fundraising to help treat specific animals.
And he blogs.
I emailed Andy to thank him for his artwork and learned that he had been questioning the value of his time-consuming commitment to create work for Art-o-mat. He was very gracious and said that hearing from me made it seem more worthwhile. He also sent me this picture of the real Maybelline and her cohort, Leon, two “hospital cats” he spared from certain fate.
If our collective experiences call us to assign varying degrees of meaning to events, what is the magic number? How many things need to be “in our dots” before we connect them and call them meaningful? Does the fact that I wanted to be a veterinarian from about age 5 until shortly before I graduated from high school make it any more interesting than the simple fact that a woman from Napa, California, bought a picture painted by a veterinarian from Elberton, Georgia, from a repurposed cigarette machine in San Francisco?
Convergence, synchronicity, or boomwalla?
Ah, yes: it’s life!