I began painting portraits of take-out coffee cups years ago. I landed on the subject almost by accident, fascinated by these contemporary icons to a timeless social ritual, “having coffee”.  I was intrigued by the industrial design of the plastic lids, and the advertising aplomb of the logo designs and the messages in the round on the cups and their sleeves. The cups conjured a nostalgia of recognition, and the comfort of familiarity and brand loyalty. Their accumulation was a record of time spent at work or leisure with cup in hand.

The mountains of collected cups in my studio felt somehow visually altered after I experienced a life threatening medical crisis a few years ago.  The simple act of “having coffee” was suddenly a thrillingly poignant occasion to me. Where the collections of cups had once been about logos shouting for attention, or an amalgam of joyous commodities representing a babel of choices, they had now shifted. Their clamor, while still funny and loud and jubilant, is somehow different. This work has become an investigation of the smallest and silliest of things, and our changing perception and appreciation of them.


Born in Chicago, Susan Jane Belton graduated from Colby College and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. She is the winner of grants including the Clarissa Bartlett Traveling Fellowship from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Massachusetts Cultural Council Painting Fellowships. Her work is in public and private collections including the Colby College Art Museum, De Cordova Museum, Duxbury Art Complex Museum, Hood Museum of Dartmouth College, M.I.T., Tufts University Art Galleries, University of Maine Museum of Art, and the Boston Public Library. Recent exhibitions include Howard Yezerski Gallery, Boston, and George Billis Gallery, New York. She recently retired after 37 years on the faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and maintains a studio in Boston’s South End.

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