In a recent post on Dustin Yellin’s Triptych at the SCAD Museum of Art. I mentioned I was going to blog about another art installation I came across that weekend I was in Savannah. I had read about these off and on over the years but had never come across one in person until the day I was in Sylvester & Co., at 205 W. Broughton St., Savannah, Georgia. What on earth am I talking about? Art-O-Mat® of course. You might ask what in the h#*$% is an Art-O-Mat®?
Art-O-Mat® is one of the most brilliant ideas for re-purposing I have ever come across. They are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to dispense art instead of cancer sticks cigarettes. This concept was created by artist Clark Whittington who built the first Art-O-Mat® for a solo show in 1997. It was installed with his work mounted on blocks the size of a pack of cigarettes and sold for $1.00 each.
When the show was over, instead of dismantling the machine a group of artists formed the AIC Artists in Cellophane group, which is the sponsoring organization for the Art-O-Mats® today. There are over 100 active machines in various locations across the county.
There are over 400 contributing artists from 10 different countries that supply the art for the machines. Artwork can be in all different mediums, from ceramics to photography, painting, drawing, jewelry, etc. When you walk up to the machine you can kind of get an idea of what you might get by peeking through the front display glass. But some pieces are in boxes, rather than mounted on blocks. So you know the name of the artist, and the media, or sometimes the subject matter of the work but that’s it. Therefore, it’s akin to the prize in the Cracker Jack Box!
This is how it works, you buy a token magic coin for $5.00 at the establishment that has the Art-O-Mat® and you use the magic coin to get your art. Put the coin in the machine, pull the handle and your masterpiece falls into the tray at the bottom. It’s really fun when you do it with a group of people because you all have to see what everybody got.
I was very happy with mine. I chose the work of ceramist Noelle Horsfield. It’s a cigarette box sized tile with a blue and brown glaze. I can’t tell what the motif is but it reminds me of Japanese ceramics. My daughter also chose a piece by Noelle and her tile had a tree of life motif.
I am so intrigued by the Art-O-Mat® , it will became an addiction (no pun intended) each time I see one. If you haven’t clicked on the link already to visit the Art-O-Mat® web site you can click here. It features photos of all the machines, gives the locations of where they all are across the country, and you can preview the work of the artists who participate. There is also information on how you could become an Art-O-Mat® artist.
So go to the site and visit your nearest Art-O-Mat®. Feel free to post a comment here or a photo of your treasure on my Facebook page. And the best thing is…. it won’t come with a warning from the Surgeon General so you can have as many as you want!