The 1957 Vendo Ice Cream Vending Machine

In 1984, while preparing for a show of my fabric design work, I was asked if I might want an out of commission 1957 Vendo ice cream vending machine. At the time, I said no thank you, but something about the offer had an abiding appeal.

As the work on my show proceeded, I noticed the cast off scraps formed sensual piles of soft waste and an "ah ha" moment occurred. I could package these playful piles and “sell” them in a vending machine. A title on the door would suggest the “artwork” that would come from inside.

Prior to that moment, I had not consciously considered the parameters of the machine. 210 objects per machine, 70 behind each door. I had to be able to ‘mass’ produce something handmade fitting into the space of an ice cream sandwich. Accepting only quarters, each object would have to cost nothing or very little.

I called my friend and soon, sitting in my studio was the machine. It was a mess. In the lower right hand corner I noticed an embossed logo, “Vendo”. For this project, I became "Vendona".

The first thing I did was have the refrigeration unit removed. Next, the machine was painted a gleaming white. Big black letters screened onto a piece of turquoise plexi was affixed to the top of the machine branding "Objet Vend’art by Vendona". Hallie Colletta became the on-call graphic artist, appropriating the “Vendo” script, screening each of the constantly changing door and button labels.

This machine made its debut, and a big splash at the Thorpe show.

As a common object of commerce the machine was a natural for the larger public domain. The Quad Cinema in New York City became the next, and longest running, ‘host’ of Objets Vend’art.

Soon after, I acquired another machine and another, finally 11 in all, and thanks to the instant public attention and the press, the rest is history.


1957 Vendo Machine 1st machine Carolina Theatre Lowe Art Museum Forma SF  Ca Smith & Wollensky Club Rio RTW  Charleston The Tunnel The Lone Star Cafe The Lone Star Roadhouse Quad Cinema 2nd Machine Los Angeles Musuem of Contemporary Art Columbia County