The art of the martini

Martini-themed works will be auctioned off as a fund-raiser for VSA arts of Nevada

“Last Mambo in Reno” by Dede Keller.

“Last Mambo in Reno” by Dede Keller.

The martini. It’s part of American culture. It’s Dean Martin, high class and a knock-you-over good time all combined into one, shaken or stirred into a cone-shaped glass with a pretentious stem. Oh, and for Dean’s sake, don’t forget the olive.

But—I did not realize this until very recently—the martini is also pillows, stained glass, tables, paintings, sculptures, clocks, gourd art and even a teal-green chandelier with beads and wire shaped into the form of a person.

Really. I swear. Check it out for yourself.

Some 48 martini-themed pieces of art are on display at the VSA arts of Nevada office, in The Parking Gallery on First and Sierra streets. They’ll be there until July 12 for potential buyers to peruse, and then on July 14, they’ll be auctioned off at a wingding called Martini Mambo. It’s a fund-raiser for VSA arts of Nevada, and it’ll be held at the ArrowCreek Golf Club, featuring Ketel One martinis, appetizers and a mambo band. Oh, and everyone who shells out the $25 for a ticket ($30 if you procrastinate and buy at the door) will get a free glass from Roxy’s at the Eldorado.

There are some really strange works up for auction. One of my favorites is one of the strangest: the aforementioned chandelier. Its creator, Dede Keller, calls it “Last Mambo in Reno.” I met her at the exhibit’s opening luncheon, and here’s what she did: She took a chandelier, gutted it, painted it teal and put martini glasses where the lights used to be. Five of the glasses, decorated with orange, purple and teal squiggles and multicolored beads attached via wire, are the same size, and each contains a teal-colored candle. The sixth glass is slightly larger. It is garnished with an orange ribbon while a wire “person,” wearing beads, straddles the glass.

Keller agrees the piece is strange.

“I was afraid to bring it,” she says. “I thought it was soooo oddball.”

I am glad she did. I also asked her why she made the chandelier so that one glass, the one getting straddled, was bigger than the other five—it works, but it certainly gives the piece an uneven feel, which most round, geometric chandeliers do not have.

“It was an accident,” she says. “I broke one, and I couldn’t find one exactly like it.” Therefore, she used the bigger glass, which was donated by her sister, and “decorated it up singly.”

An accident also helped mold Frank Rossbach’s “A Hard Day’s Martini.” For those who may feel that Keller’s chandelier is a bit too abstract, this should be more appropriate. It is, simply put, an enormous martini glass. We’re talking several feet tall, with glass ice cubes and an eggshell painted to look like an olive (speared with a really big toothpick). The stem of the glass includes an olive and toothpick crafted out of glass, with a painted pattern that reminds me of multicolored bubbles. The piece is a bit unusual in that the part of the glass that would hold the martini is shaped like a cylinder, not a cone.

Rossbach explains that he could not find a cone-shaped container large enough, so he used a cylindrically shaped glass for the top instead. He crafted the stem himself—although the first attempt was broken—and used ultraviolet glue to affix the glass part. He bought the glass cubes, and a friend, Tracey Thomas, made the olive from the egg.

“That’s my size martini,” Rossbach beams, as his father, Gerhard, who also has a work up for auction, looks on. They then get into a spirited debate over who is the bigger martini drinker.

It was a good time, which the martini is supposed to represent (as long as one does not consume too many of them, nor consume them too often). I am sure the auction on July 14 will be the same. And, hey, it’s for a good cause, too.