Stringed Victory

He’s rocked Guitarmania twice with the witty, visually arresting designs of the cloud-covered “Air Guitar” and the eponymous “Rust.” And now — live at Tower City Center — John Lionti brings us “Classic Rock” as an encore.

“I tried to do something that has some kind of connection to rock ’n’ roll, to the performers,” says Lionti, associate creative director at downtown communications firm Liggett Stashower. “Cleveland is known as a classic rock city.”

Evoking “classic” in two senses of the word — classical marble sculpture and the hands of a classic rocker — the guitar features two to-scale hands playing a chord. The hands were meticulously modeled after Lionti’s musician brother Sal. Lionti and Liggett Stashower artist/illustrator Earnie Merritt texturized the hands and added a faux finish, which gives the piece its distinctive flair. Sitting on a classical-style pillar, the guitar has raised letters and distressed areas, simulating chipped, cracked and worn, centuries-old marble.

“I was really going for a ‘Venus de Milo’ in reverse type thing, or ‘Winged Victory’ — you see these famous statues but body parts, appendages are broken off. I wanted to do a reverse thing where the arm and hand are on the body of the guitar and the hand is on the neck,” says Lionti.

Lionti, a rock aficionado since childhood who has designed all of his company’s Guitarmania entries, is such a fan (count Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Black Sabbath among his faves) that he put a little something extra into his design.

“I burned two CDs of classic rock stuff. When we put the arm together on the guitar, I encased that in the arm, in the foam filler,” Lionti says. “It’s kind of a classic rock time capsule.”

For more information about Guitarmania and photos of the evolution of Lionti’s “Classic Rock,” visit

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