Exploring Pittsburgh’s Art Scene: A Trip to the Mattress Factory

Yesterday, I took a much needed excursion outside of the confines of Everson, Pennsylvania and burst into the dreary confines of Pittsburgh. Ok, maybe I didn’t burst into or do anything that involved moving too quickly. I was too tired for bursting. I strolled. And maybe Pittsburgh isn’t all that dreary. Though, I am wondering if I am cut out for city life.

Annnyways, the important part is that I finally got to go to the Mattress Factory (a contemporary art museum that emphasizes a very physical art experience)! Happily, they encourage you to take pictures – but no flash photography – so I was able to document the experience to share with you!


Photo Credit : Museum Website

James Turrell – Pleiades, Danae & Catso, Red

As the first exhibition at the Mattress Factory, I really didn’t know what to expect. It was dark, creepy. I couldn’t see where I was going and that definitely freaked me out. More than I expected. We walked through this hallway, into a room with a red box projected in the corner. To be honest, I found Catso, Red kind of underwhelming. Like it was a lot of hype, creeping through the dark, to nothing.

Photo Credit: Richard Lemarchand

Photo Credit: Richard Lemarchand

However, Danae was wicked cool and Pleiades completely messed with my head. It was disorienting and very uncomfortable for me. I have never experienced art in that way before.

“Creating a space in which the viewer experiences a blurring of the boundary between what is seen outside oneself and what is seen in the mind’s eye. Turrell says, ‘Pleiades is a Dark Piece where the realm of night vision touches the realm of eyes-closed vision; where the space generated is substantially different from the physical confines and is not dependent on it; where the seeing that comes from ‘out there’ merges with the seeing that comes from ‘in here’, where the seeing develops over and through dark adaptation but continues beyond it'”

Danae 1983Photo Credit: Joe Kiolkowski

Danae 1983
Photo Credit: Joe Kiolkowski

Check out the Art21 piece on James Turrell to learn more about him and his work.

Yayoi Kusama – Infinity Dots Mirrored RoomReceptive Vision

These were both such cool and interesting pieces. The process of entering into the art was pretty theatrical. You slide on these hospital booties to protect the formica floor. You slide open these black doors and close them behind you. You are enclosed in the artwork. You are a small piece of the work.

My fiance and me in "Receptive Vision" -- a small mirrored room with colored dots on the floor and recessed black lighting on the ceiling.

Standing in Receptive Vision — a small mirrored room with colored dots on the floor and recessed black lighting on the ceiling. Blurry pic due to low light and no flash. Ohhh well! You’ll just have to experience it for yourself!


Opening the doorway to "Infinity Dots Mirrored Room"

Opening the doorway to Infinity Dots Mirrored Room

It's a blast of warm light into the cool dark

It’s a blast of warm light into the cool dark

"Infinity Dots Mirrored Room"

Infinity Dots Mirrored Room



The doorway into "Receptive vision" reads both as a positive and negative shape.

The doorway into Receptive Vision reads both as a positive and negative shape.

Fun facts: Kusama received the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award and was a penpal with Georgia O’Keefe in the 50s.

“My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings. All my works in pastels are the products of obsessional neurosis and are therefore inextricably connected to my disease. I create pieces even when I don’t see hallucinations, though.” (Kusama)

Feminist and… exhibition (on view at the Mattress Factory until May 5th 2013, curated by Hilary Robinson)

…[L]arge museum exhibitions around the world…[have] attempted to categorize and historicize something called ‘feminist art.’ …[T]hey have been problematic, for two reasons; first, they have tended to view the work as historical, predominantly of the 70s; and second, the have each tried to produce their own definition of ‘feminist art’. …[I]t means that the curators have seen ‘Feminist Art’ as something akin to other art movements – producing work that is bounded by time, geography, and media, as were movements such as Cubism or Abstract Expressionism. This is reductive, because ‘feminism’ is not a style, a method, or a set of aesthetic concerns. Rather, feminism is a set of politics, dedicated to the analysis of gender and the liberation of all women in support of the improvement of all humankind. To be feminist is to be actively involved with a process of thinking and acting and engaging with the whole world. To think feminist is not to think about women, but to think about anything and everything that has some form of gender-coding, or implications for the gender-coding of individuals one way or another. ‘Feminist and…’ one sex or another, one sexuality or another, one race or another, one class or another, one career or another, one education or another, one age or another…” (curator’s statement)

Parasto Forouhar – Written Room

"Written Room" 2012

“Written Room” 2012

“One November evening in 1998, Iranian intellectuals and activists Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, supporters of the democratically elected Prime Minister, were savagely murdered in their home in Tehran. Their devastated daughter, Berlin-based artist Parastou Forouhar, channeled her grief in the language she spoke most fluently: art — powerful, poignant, subversive art that pulls you into its uncomfortable beauty with equal parts urgency and mesmerism.” (Maria Popova – Parastou Forouhar: Art, Life and Death in Iran)

Carrie Mae Weems – Lincoln, Lonnie and Me

Carrie Mae Weems is one of my favorite artists. I have wanted to see her work in person ever since I saw her series “From here I saw What Happened and I Cried” (1995-96) on her website. Admittedly her piece in the “Feminist and…” exhibition was a major reason that I wanted to go to the Mattress Factory.

Lincoln, Lonnie and Me 2012Installation StillPhoto Credit: Artist's Website

Lincoln, Lonnie and Me 2012
Installation Still
Photo Credit: Artist’s Website

This was a very powerful installation, and also very intriguing as an artist. Ever since visiting Carnegie Mellon University, I have been thinking about working with photography, projection and video. This Installation was very powerful and very beautifully done. The integration of sound, video projection, the rich red textiles, the deep darkness and the chill of the room worked so well together. It would be too obvious to call it theatrical.

The Kitchen Table Series: Carrie Mae Weems on Art21

Julia Cahill – Breasts in the Press

This piece was both hilarious and really important. I think Cahill perfectly combines feminist issues with comedy, allowing viewers/audience members to take in her message and not be overwhelmed by it.

A video of her rapping about breasts to "My Humps" was projected ontop of some massively exaggerated breasts on a cast of a Venus sculpture.

Add Media A video of her rapping about breasts to “My Humps” was projected on top of some massively exaggerated breasts on a cast of a Venus sculpture.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/38814249]

Ayanah Moorby and about

Moor is a Pittsburgh-based printmaker with an MFA from Tyler School of Art. She’s teaching at CMU (my current theory is that all good things I stumble upon right now come from CMU)

by and about 2012screen print on newspaper, tables, preparatory materials

by and about 2012
screen print on newspaper, tables, preparatory materials

Screen print on newspaper 2012

Screen print on newspaper 2012  Text reads: “I move on feeling and have learned to distrust those who don’t those who don’t”

Text reads: "sampling black romantic interiors"

Text reads: “sampling black romantic interiors”

Text reads: "both wanting both loving"

Text reads: “both wanting both loving”


Text Reads: "My melanin is relevant it's something to be (had?)"

Text Reads: “My melanin is relevant it’s something to be (had?)”


Share this wicked sweet postShare on FacebookShare on TumblrPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on StumbleUponShare on Google+Share on Reddit


No Responses to “Exploring Pittsburgh’s Art Scene: A Trip to the Mattress Factory”


Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] the Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh was really inspiring. The piece by Ayanah Moor really has me thinking about what I would like to do […]

Leave A Comment