One of my Art-o-mat bug portraits.
What is an Art-o-mat?
Art-o-mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 90 active machines in various locations throughout the country.
The story behind Art-o-mat®
The inspiration for Art-o-mat® came to artist Clark Whittington while observing a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to the crinkle of cellophane. When Whittington's friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one too.
The year was 1997, the town was Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Whittington was set to have a solo art show at a local cafe, Penny Universitie (which eventually became Mary's Of Course Cafe). This is when Whittington used a recently-banned cigarette machine to create the first Art-o=mat. In June 1997, it was installed, along with 12 of his paintings. The machine sold Whittington's black & white photographs for $1.00 each.
This art show was scheduled to be dismantled in July 1997. However, Cynthia Giles (owner of the Penny Universitie) loved the machine and asked that it stay permanently and machine remains unaltered in its original location to this day. At that point, it was clear that involvement of other artists was needed if the project was going to continue. Giles introduced Whittington to a handful of other local artists and Artists in Cellophane was formed.
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. A.I.C believes that art should be progressive, yet personal and approachable. What better way to do this, than with a heavy cold steel machine?