Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Outsider Art In A Box In The News
Pay Your Money And Take Your Chances
Rhonda Simmons converted feminine hygiene vending machines into mini galleries dispensing tiny artistic surprises.
By Cheryl Rossi-Staff writer /Photo-Dan Toulgoet
Rhonda Simmons calls art her greatest partner and she wants to share the love. She's installing vending machines around Vancouver that sell original works for $4.
"I feel that art is one of those beautiful expressions that should be accessible to everybody," said the mixed-media artist, who lives in Killarney.
The machines, called Outsider Art in a Box, are painted purple, feature an artsy elephant fashioned after the Hindu god Ganesh and house pieces of art in boxes that are four-and-a-half inches long, three inches wide and one inch deep.
"It's about a creative challenge," Simmons said. "It's working with the dimensions of the box, using the least amount of materials but coming up with some really diverse creative expression."
The works for sale include collages, pins, chalkboard necklaces, scarves, sushi candles, and a "coffee condom," which is a knit coffee cup sleeve with the tag, "Use a coffee condom. Don't get burned." The machines will also soon be selling zines to read.
The machines are refurbished feminine hygiene product dispensers that don't have windows, so those willing to shell out $4 for an original work don't know what they're getting.
"That is the fun and the challenge and the risk of it all," Simmons said.
She was inspired by Toronto's Vendart project, where artists wheel around a pink fridge and encourage people to take pieces free of charge, and Montreal's Distroboto project, which sells art for $2 from cigarette machines.
American artist Clark Whittington likely originated the vending machine art movement with his Art-o-mat machine, Simmons noted. Started in 1997, Art-o-mat operates 82 machines throughout the U.S.
Simmons said the Outsider Art moniker makes fun of the idea that everyone needs to think outside of the box. It also references the outsider art movement of artists who are primarily self-taught.
Ruby Dog's Art House at 4738 Main St., which sells recycled and new arts and crafts paraphernalia, is the first Vancouver location to have an Outsider vending machine.
Artists involved so far are a mix of established and emerging creators. Simmons places a piece of paper inside each box naming the artist, his or her work and website address and a description of his or her art practice so a purchaser can contact the artist directly.
A second machine will be temporarily installed as part of Earth: the World Urban Festival at the Great Northern Way Campus, 555 Great Northern Way, June 21 to 25.
The Petri Dish shop and gallery at 2406 Main St. should have a machine installed by mid-July. It's also hosting art-making workshops June 15 and 20.
Those wanting to submit their work must pay a one-time $15 to $25 fee. Artists receive $2 of the sale price while the machine's host and the project each receive $1. "You're not going to create a living from this but it's a good way to get your art out there, small works of art, in a different way," Simmons said.
She will vet submissions, aiming to distribute high quality work suitable to all ages and to help artists tweak their work.