The Galleries’ new exhibition, Imprints–Impressions–Improvisations has a little bit of everything – paintings, prints, sculpture, pottery and a cigarette vending machine refurbished into an “Art-O-Mat” that dispenses original works of art for $5 plus tax.
I know you want to know more about that machine! It was the brainchild of Clark Whittington, a native of Cabarrus County and graduate of Central Cabarrus High School. Clark’s inspiration came from a friend who had a Pavlovian reaction to crinkling cellophane. When Whittington’s friend heard someone opening a snack, he had the uncontrollable urge to have one, too.
In 1997 Whittington had a solo show at Penny Universitie café in Winston-Salem and came up with the idea of refurbishing a cigarette machine that sold art – wrapped in cellophane, of course. When it was time for the machine to be removed, the owner wanted to keep it. That machine remains in its original location, now Mary’s Of Course Café, today.
The Art-O-Mat concept took off, and today there are over 90 machines around the world selling the work of over 400 artists. Clark’s goal with Art-O-Mat is to encourage art consumption by combining the worlds of art and commerce in an innovative form. For the price of a fast food meal, a new art collector is born!
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The Art-O-Mat in our exhibition is one of the first ones made. It offers nine artistic choices: tiny easel, a painting with easel, jewelry, purse notepad, pinhole camera with photograph, earthenware keychain, origami, handmade paper and something called a “Capacitor Dude” that looks like a little metal robot. The choices change as things sell out – we no longer have paintings or blocks of wood or “Bronzes by the Quality Individual” from Ghana. Operated by the Cabarrus Arts Council, The Galleries are located in Cabarrus County’s 1876 historic courthouse. Besides Whittington, the exhibition brings together 16 other artists who use impressed designs, traditional impressionistic approaches or improvisation in their work. Whittington represents “improvisation” in the exhibition. The other improvisational artist is Marygrace Perkins, who lives and works in Concord. She creates sculptures from discarded metal.
Seven of the artists use impressed designs in their work: Daniel Allegrucci, woodblock prints of explosions; Ann Gleason, whimsical sculptures; Mary Kudlak, linoleum prints; Amy Sanders, stamped and textured stoneware; Justin Turcotte, textured glass; Janet Warner, monochromatic etchings; and Julie Wiggins, ceramics with inlaid designs. Eight of the artists employ traditional Impressionistic approaches: Ben Betsalel, paintings ranging from realistic to splatter; Elizabeth Bradford, oil and acrylic paintings; Mary Farmer, abstract encaustic paintings; John Ransmeier, woodfired ceramics; Stuart Roper, en plein air painter; Mary Alayne Thomas, encaustic paintings; Wayne Wrights, black and white photographs; and Darren Young, “painterly” realist paintings. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. The Galleries also will be open regular hours for Show Up Saturday on Saturday, May 7. Group tours can be arranged at other times by appointment. Volunteer docents are available for tours, and there are artwork scavenger hunts for both children and adults. There is no admission charge. For more information, call 704-920-ARTS (2787) or visit the Cabarrus Arts Council website.