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May 25, 2017 - March 13, 2020

Arthur “Art” Stenholm began working as commercial artist for Advertising Posters in March of 1964 with artists Roy Parker and George Molentin. Advertising Posters was a graphic design company that produced artworks for pinball machine manufacturers Bally and Williams. Stenholm’s boss, George Molentin, was the Art Director for Advertising Posters, and he managed the print production for all of the big pinball companies at the time.

Roy Parker's failing health may have created a situation where he and Stenholm worked together on a few projects, with Parker training Stenholm as his heir to the Gottlieb artist throne. There are many examples of Stenholm's involvement in Parker’s artworks such as World Fair, Kings and Queens, North Star, and Central Park. Regardless of whether or not he was groomed to be Parker’s replacement, Stenholm assumed the position of Gottlieb’s lead artist following Parker's death in 1966.

Stenholm’s artwork is distinct from Parker’s in the way Stenholm frequently presented women as self-assured and capable human beings, rather than helpless glamour dolls and beauty props for male amusement. Possibly influenced by the relationship with his daughters, Stenholm’s work encouraged and empowered women to play pinball by incorporating them playing the game directly into the artwork. He often depicted women as active participants in sports, music, and other facets of fun and life, a departure from the pinball art up to then.

Arthur “Art” Stenholm passed away in 2007 at the age of 90. With this exhibit, we hope his legacy in pinball art will be long remembered.

Art Stenholm - Bio

Arthur “Art” Stenholm began working as commercial artist for Advertising Posters in March of 1964 with artists Roy Parker and George Molentin. Advertising Posters was a graphic design company that produced artworks for pinball machine manufacturers Bally and Williams. Stenholm’s boss, George Molentin, was the Art Director for Advertising Posters, and he managed the print production for all of the big pinball companies at the time.

 

Roy Parker's failing health may have created a situation where he and Stenholm worked together on a few projects, with Parker training Stenholm as his heir to the Gottlieb artist throne. There are many examples of Stenholm's involvement in Parker’s artworks such as World Fair, Kings and Queens, North Star, and Central Park. Regardless of whether or not he was groomed to be Parker’s replacement, Stenholm assumed the position of Gottlieb’s lead artist following Parker's death in 1966.

 

Stenholm’s artwork is distinct from Parker’s in the way Stenholm frequently presented women as self-assured and capable human beings, rather than helpless glamour dolls and beauty props for male amusement. Possibly influenced by the relationship with his daughters, Stenholm’s work encouraged and empowered women to play pinball by incorporating them playing the game directly into the artwork. He often depicted women as active participants in sports, music, and other facets of fun and life, a departure from the pinball art up to then.

 

Arthur “Art” Stenholm passed away in 2007 at the age of 90. With this exhibit, we hope his legacy in pinball art will be long remembered.

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GALLERY IMAGES

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge

1965 Williams

Moulin Rouge was Stenholm's tenth pinball art design, and his eighth for Williams. It's unclear who came up with the concept of an artist painting a picture that gets revealed as you play the game, but it seems that the artist would need to be involved early on in the design process. The mirrored panel in the center gradually disappears as the player lights up sections.

Even though he is working for a competing company, Stenholm seems to be borrowing from Roy Parker's tendency to use humor and a cartoonish style. However, with lots of little details and a skillful composition, we see Stenholm developing his chops for designing pinball art.

Hi-Score

Hi-Score

1967 Gottlieb

Art Stenholm often created art actively encouraging women to play pinball. He generally toned down the cheesecake aspect in pinball art, portraying women as real people. In Hi-Score he made it cool for women to play pinball, putting them front and center in an arcade where they are playing a machine that repeats the motif of them playing on the backglass. The same pattern is repeated on the glass of the game next to them.

We could be seeing recurring characters, with the woman at the snack counter also appearing as the target shooter from Funland and a player on Super Score, the 2 player version of Hi-Score. She seems to be the self assured female role-model for Stenholm's world giving the men a run for their money in a game of skill, like pinball.

Spin Wheel

Spin Wheel

1968 Gottlieb

Stenholm frequently used a “game within a game” approach in his pinball art. The premise here being a board game where you spin the wheel, matching the objective of the pinball game. Also, there’s a likely reference to "spin the bottle", a game played by young adults where kissing is involved. Much of Stenholm’s art spoke directly to the interests and activities of young adults.

The art is a snapshot of the American living room circa 1968. Stenholm created richly detailed scenes, putting in the seemingly insignificant objects like the glass ashtray, the TV Guide and the energetic Chihuahua. Even the fluffy carpet is a sign of the times. The hairstyles and the Mondrian dress complete the effect and one is pulled into the party and playing spin wheel just like the backglass.

Four Seasons

Four Seasons

1968 Gottlieb

In some ways, Four Seasons is a departure from some of our other selected games. Here we see little of the growing culture shift of the 1960's, and a theme more in line with earlier pinball art. It's possible that some influence of Roy Parker and earlier attitudes were still at play in the design and theme, which feels old-fashioned by today's standards in its character portrayal.

The bold, geometric graphic organizes the scene into neatly divided seasons. Popular pastimes of the day are front and center, even a Smoky Bear character makes an appearance. Our female lead seems unaware of the destruction she leaves in her wake, with men spellbound and bewildered at every turn. Just short of catcalls and wolf whistles, the artwork would have us see our heroine through the eyes of interested men. While Second-wave Feminism was in full bloom by 1968, our scenes here seem to reflect attitudes of an earlier era.

Funland

Funland

1968 Gottlieb

Straddling two worlds at once, we see Stenholm nodding to the cultural changes happening in America in the late 1960's. The traditional carnival atmosphere is infiltrated with trendy UK-inspired fashions, bold colors, and shaggy haircuts. Like some of Stenholm's other work, this is an observational scene that would have resonated with a young person's social experiences at that time.

At our center, a young woman in a minidress and high boots takes aim at a shooting gallery game. A world-weary woman at the counter sullenly grasps a lemon soda while a couple on a motorbike pass by. A pair of beatniks approach, guitar in hand in the background. In the playfield plastics, notice 2 people dancing in what looks to be a Hullabaloo style, frenetic and loose.

Again, the adult men are very stylized almost like marionettes in their features, perhaps setting apart one generation from the next. Also notice that, like Hi Score and Spin Wheel, Funland is both a game within the world depicted and one in our own. The playfield carries through the motif with duck targets that align the pinball player's objectives with the game's characters.

Airport

Airport

1969 Gottlieb

With a Boeing 727 visible through the window of the mostly empty terminal, the blue tile floor suggests the vast emptiness of an ocean. The background is all straight lines, a very geometric visual which along with the cold slabs of blues and violets makes the curves and bright colors of the airline crew contrast strongly. The flight attendants are the focal point of the backglass, and are further emphasized with backlights.

Unlike his predecessor Roy Parker, Stenholm shows the women sporting current fashions and hairdos, appearing not as fashion models but regular people. In most of Stenholm's work, women are presented as capable people confidently participating in the action.

The lone traveler with too many bags is one of the last things the eye is drawn to although he is centered in the painting. Finally, in a very Stenholmian motif, we find a weary traveling musician asleep on the bench.

Crescendo

Crescendo

1970 Gottlieb

Though released in 1970, Crescendo effectively conjures the psychedelia of the 1960's. Building on some of his earlier inclusions, Stenholm saturates the scene with the beatnik and hippie characters.

Set in a club, hallmarks of the times are on display. Immersive colorful visuals, organic lettering styles, and youth fashions dominate. Based on the female-fronted band and visuals, the title Crescendo may be an allusion to Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit and its famous build-up. Historically speaking, we might also apply the title as a description of the hippie movement's rise and eventual fall.

The playfield is dominated by a flower power motif and energetic clubgoers from the backglass art. In terms of game features, Crescendo is important as the first Gottlieb game to include drop targets. The game was also released in a 4-player version titled Groovy.

Mini Cycle

Mini Cycle

1970 Gottlieb

Again we see Gottlieb and Stenholm tapping into popular consciousness of the 1960's. Mini bikes and beach party movies were a huge part of pop culture, especially with pinball's biggest audience, young people.

The backglass scene appears less populated than some of his other games, focusing on a small group of partiers and minibikers. However, this is probably owed more to the expansive scenery, which is a departure from the closed-in imagery of games like Spin Wheel and Hi Score. While the beat and hippie fashions are present, the look is a little more subdued than in some of Stenholm's other scenes. Notice the acoustic guitar, a familiar recurring icon in our selected games.

Mini Cycle's playfield is bold and graphic, but also spacious. The yellow background carries through from the backglass evoking an expanse of beach sand for players to frolic on.

Flip A Card

Flip A Card

1970 Gottlieb

Stenholm used his art to capture the little things that made up a certain period. On the backglass and the plastics are little things that create the whole story of this 1960’s dorm room; phone, flower trash can, gooseneck lamp, stuffed animal, and the typewriter.

One thing that intrigued me about Stenholm’s work was that he did not depend on cheesecake clothes, poses, or exaggerated features to portray the women in his art. The clothes were plain, comfortable but not high fashion, little or no makeup, and doing things that most other college students would be doing. In this case, playing a game of solitaire while her friend plays an acoustic guitar.

Scuba

Scuba

1970 Gottlieb

One of the most visually engaging subjects of pinball art is life under the sea. Art Stenholm captured the vast expanse and wonder of the deep blue ocean and incorporated mythology, humor, greed, sex and envy to take it a step further. This is a work that is very atmospheric, every time I play Scuba I am transported to a comfortable place of warm water and mysterious marvels.

The way Stenholm handled color in several of our selections shows a skillful understanding of successful pinball art. For it to be effective, a backglass has to stand out and capture a customer’s attention right away, often in a busy arcade environment. In these examples, Stenholm highlighted his foreground characters by using large expanses of color in the backgrounds. In effect, this immerses a viewer into his scene and hopefully convinces them to play the game.

Researched and written by Michael Schiess and Chris Rummell.
Special thanks to Art Stenholm's daughter's, Leona and Sally.

Pacific Pinball Museum

1510 Webster Street

Alameda, Ca 94501

(510) 769-1349

info@pacificpinball.org

HOURS:

TEMPORARILY CLOSED

MONDAY: CLOSED for Game Repairs

TUESDAY - THURSDAY: 11AM - 9PM

FRIDAY & SATURDAY: 11AM - 10PM

SUNDAY: 11AM - 9PM

CLOSED: 

Mondays, 4th of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day, 

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