Art Compartmets

What the heck is a Pet-o-Mat? In Colorado fiber artist Christine Marie Davis’s own words, it’s “a mini museum of tactile art contained within a rotating sandwich vending machine. It is home to 49 curious creatures that live in the remodeled pet condos awaiting visitors to touch and play with them.” Davis — whose exceptional oeuvre involves soft-sculpture creatures made mostly from recycled materials and found objects — spent about a year creating the thing, which is currently on display in the lobby of the Auraria Library, on the Auraria campus. Looking quite normal in a spot where people busily pass by it all day, Pet-o-Mat could very well just be another campus vending machine...until you stick your hands inside and squeeze, that is. Whoa!

The idea for the vending-machine installation evolved naturally: “They sort of look like pets, and they sort of look like food,” Davis says of her creations. “When I first got them in there, though, it looked like a little hospital. The inside was too industrial-looking — it was all white plastic and metal — so I had to remodel it.” She painted the inside a rubbery black and installed little cloth pet beds, adding mesh wire and dividers to make the compartments look more like cages for the creatures — who are made not just from fabric, but also glass, rubber, monkey fur, bones, used chew toys, used rawhide and other unexpected materials. “I go out and find colorful and tactile materials and objects to buy at garage sales and other places,” Davis notes.

And what kind of response has the vending machine evoked? “Shock, surprise. Weirded out. I’ve gotten everything from ‘Wow, this is cool’ to things I don’t want to repeat,” says Davis. “Mostly, people start getting excited and asking, ‘What is this? What are they?’ One woman even asked, ‘Do I have to spend money? These are cool, but I’m really hungry.’”

Down in the dumps? Cheer yourself up with a little something from the Pet-o-Mat, on view through August 19 at the library (but please don’t eat the artwork). For more information, log on to www.pet-o-mat.com.
June 18-Aug. 19, 2008

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Contact: Susan Froyd