Thursday, August 20, 2015

RECAP // Coffee Date with Marnie Weber

This past Saturday, MF Members joined Factory Installed artist Marnie Weber for a special behind-the-scenes Coffee Date. Marnie is in the process of creating her installation "Night Train" in the Lower Level of the museum's main building at 500 Sampsonia Way. Her installation will be part of the museum's upcoming exhibition, Factory Installed, featuring four artists from around the globe. The Factory Installed Opening Reception will be held Friday, September 18 from 6-8pm.
Marnie gave a brief overview of her practice and her experience working with galleries located in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London and Athens, Greece. Marnie is building a train in the Lower Level and explained her fascination with trains began at a very early age when she lived for a year in Taiwan next to a steam engine. "Night Train" will be accompanied by many effigies or spirit totems, as Marnie likes to call them. These spirit totems are created by manipulating found objects such as masks and wigs, and sculpting them to give a monster-like appearance. "I like to work with monsters because no females tend to work with monsters. It's more of a man's thing," Marnie explained.
After the introduction, Marnie toured the group through her partially installed work, explaining that it will look completely different in a few weeks when the exhibition opens. Marnie is also a musician and is composing a soundtrack that will be played on a loop in the installation. "The lighting will also be totally different," Marnie made sure to tell everyone. "It will be more theatrical!"

Marnie Weber's "Night Train" opens as part of Factory Installed on September 18 and will be open through Spring 2016.

For more information about upcoming Coffee Dates or to become a member, visit our website at

Friday, August 14, 2015

RECAP // Teen Summer Art Cooperative Program

This past summer 16 high school students spent three days a week at the museum participating in the inaugural year of the Mattress Factory's Summer Art Cooperative. We launched this program because we wanted to make the Mattress Factory a resource for students in the same way that we act as a resource for professional artists—a place where they can experiment, think big, and take their work to the next level.

The Summer Art Cooperative also addresses the ins and outs of being an artist- expanding our teens’ repertoire of techniques and methods, but also to help them figure out how to make art stay a part of their life as they transition into self-sufficiency and start thinking about their own career pathway. Basically, what we wanted to do with the Summer Art Cooperative is combine all of the “aha” moments that have helped to get us where we’re at—to pool our collective epiphanies together—so that pursuing a creative life doesn’t seem so impossible or financially unstable.

The students in this program had the opportunity to meet with ten different working artists and creative folks in the Pittsburgh community. The goals was to expose students to a variety of new mediums, new definitions of being an artists and the various ways to live a creative life. The students had workshops with John Peña (an artist featured in our recent Artists in Residence exhibition), Frederick Arnold, owner of a local record label, Caiti Sullivan, a master fermenter + pickler, Kevin Clancy, taught a workshop on inflatable utopias, Michael Koliner taught students about cob and hosted a workshop called “Mud Dance!” and more. Students also met with most of the Mattress Factory staff to truly understand what happens behind-the-scenes. From the first day of the program the students also had the challenge of planning their own event. The group decided that they wanted to host their own art exhibition featuring work by all of the Cooperative members on the theme of Identity.

The final celebration and showcase was a huge success. The Cooperative students organized and played experimental music made out of game boy loops and synth samples, showed an installations that included fake blood, fake birthday cakes, a smoking slime ball, an inflatable tetrahydron, and much much more. There was tons and tons of pizza and so many family and friends came out to support the students and celebrate all their handwork. It was an awesome summer and we can’t wait to see what our artists do next.

If you are interested in teen programming at the Mattress Factory, be sure to check out our new TEEN ART COOPERATIVE program. We will meet on Thursdays from 4-6pm at the museum. Applications are due Sunday, September 20th and space is limited! If you are interested in finding out more about the Teen Art Cooperative come to our info session on Tuesday, September 15th from 3:30-6pm. For questions and more information e-mail

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

RECAP // Coffee Date with Jacob Douenias + Ethan Frier

On August 1, Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier hosted a Coffee Date at the Mattress Factory's satellite gallery at 1414 Monterey Street where their installation "Living Things" occupies the entire first floor. Jacob and Ethan are alumni from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Architecture and School of Design, respectively.

Their installation is set as though you're walking into a home. A seating area equipped with a rug and coffee table greet you as you first enter the room, and a table and black and white tiled floor are positioned at the rear with a desk roped off to the left. Jacob and Ethan choose to host their Coffee Date in their installation, as opposed to the MF Café where previous Coffee Dates are typically held. MF Members were invited to sit down and use the coffee table, as Jacob and Ethan made themselves available to answer questions.
Jacob and Ethan opened up the roped off desk on the left-hand side of the room to demonstrate to MF Members how their installation was operating. It is indeed a "living thing," with the algae growing in the basement of the museum (not on view) and being pumped and siphoned to the glass orbs controlled by a series of white knobs embedded in the wooden desk.

Don't miss our next behind-the-scenes Coffee Date with upcoming artist Marnie Weber on August 15 at 10:30am. Marnie's installation opens as Part II of Factory Installed on September 19.

For more information about Coffee Dates or to become a member, please visit our website at

Monday, August 10, 2015

RECAP // Mini-Factory: PATTERNS!

PATTERNS surround us in our world. They can be created using colors, shapes, and different sizes ... on our clothes, dinner plates and sidewalks, PATTERNS allow us to find repetition at its best. Thick, white stripes on a street indicate it is safe to cross. Rows of alternating red rectangles reach up to the sky exemplifying the craftsmanship of a multi-storied building (like the Mattress Factory!). Some artists use PATTERNS to convey feelings, set a mood, or shock our senses. Mini-Factory visited shift lens by Anne Lindberg. Using tightly pulled thread secured to each side of the room, a colorful yet surreal crisscross PATTERN is created. Light filters from the windows behind allowing colors to bend and play with your visual senses. The consensus? ... Very cool!

Yayoi Kusama uses polka-dots throughout her installations so viewers may experience her point of view - literally - and the ensuing feelings. What do you feel when walking through Infinity Dots Mirrored Room and Repetitive Vision? Calm, jolted, dizzy? The abundance of polka-dots plays a large role with how we feel in these installations.

PATTERNS also occur naturally, such as the lines in a blade of grass, the veins of a leaf and the speckles in a piece of granite. Our young artists were given magnifying glasses and asked to walk through Winifred Lutz's Garden in search of patterns. Leaves, bricks, rocks and water were inspected for naturally occurring PATTERNS - success!

Of course given the chance, these energetic artists love to create something new. Using their imagination and inspiration learning and observing PATTERNS, our young crew created their own installations with various materials such as yarn, stickers, markers, pipe cleaners and tape. There were PATTERNS of all kinds; two-toned stripes, colorful polka-dots, sparkling spirals, and more.

Mini-Factory is an interactive learning program for children ages 3-5 years old and their parents or caregivers. Using contemporary installation art, parents and children will explore new ideas and concepts from the everyday world. Join us at 10am on August 22, 2015 to explore the theme of SCIENCE.

Monday, August 3, 2015

ANNOUNCING // "Factory Installed" Artist Interviews

Artist interviews for Factory Installed currently on display at the 1414 Monterey Street gallery are now available on the MF SoundCloud page!

This round of guides are soundbites taken straight from interviews with the exhibiting artists themselves, and they include a description of each piece as well as bonus commentary that covers a variety of different topics from how the artists created their pieces, to what it was like working at the Mattress Factory, and more. Here is a quick overview of each track and some highlighted quotes from the artists' commentary.

Jacob and Ethan describe their piece as a near future living environment in which a totally functioning bio system made to harvest and cultivate a kind of algae called Spirulina, is integrated into different kinds of furniture in a home environment. 

Jacob Douenias: "...even now the first reaction when you talk to people about algae is they think of scum, the goopy pond stuff... Most people's first impression is not great, so with this piece it is a proof of concept, that this can be beautiful. Leaving aside the functionality, it could be a resource-efficient way of providing a supplementary nutrient, fuel and doing these things in a way so they don't take up extra space."

Jacob and Ethan tell us about their backgrounds in architecture and industrial design, and their unusual transition into installation art and how it's freed up their process. 

Ethan Frier: "I've (always) wanted to make something that is more art, but I'm a designer... How do I make this thing practical? I've kind of realized that art and design - there is a very fluid border between them... There is art in everything and design in everything. I think working as an artist has freed up my design process a lot more because I feel more comfortable to go outside the bounds of what the profession is perceived to be."

Julie Schenkelberg describes the process of collecting materials from the area where she's building, the kinds of objects she collects and why, and the story that she's trying to tell in her work. 

"Sometimes I explain my pieces as if they are tattered manuals and pieces are discarded or missing and then we have these objects in front of us that we're unsure how to operate. So I operate them the way that I would imagine and therefore pieces of molding become structure for the room. Dishes become pieces that support a chair... You walk in and it's completely chaotic and it is totally blended together as the same symphony and it becomes this quiet moment."

Julie talks about how she always thought she had a story to tell, and the lonely path she followed for a while after quitting theatre and trying to find a way to tell her story as a different kind of artist.

"It just sort of happened. I stopped painting and started touching objects, using objects and then a wise person told me I couldn't deny my theatre history. So the paintings came off the wall with objects and then it just started cascading onto the floor and up to the ceiling - that was a moment when it just took over. And it just kept taking over."

Track 5: Anne Lindberg, "Shift Lens"

Anne Lindberg describes the intricate process involved in creating her piece and the performative quality that can only be carried out while working on-site at the Mattress Factory.

"So the piece is comprised of hundreds of lines of cotton thread that are held taught between two walls in the space and then between the floor and the upper edge of the bay window... In terms of a process, the lines that make up the work are stitched or threaded back and forth between the walls as if you are stitching the architecture. There is a person at each wall wielding a staple gun and there is a runner or perhaps one of us stepping down and moving the thread so it is a performance of sorts when it is being made."

Anne talks about how the history of the space in which she creates her work influences the way she designs and creates them, and how the Mattress Factory's willingness to give her the freedom to alter the space as much as she wishes is a truly unique experience as an artist.

"I try to visit the space and... look at it in a very diagrammatic way as well as a more human way. Who are the visitors? What is the history of the building? How will that tell me how to form the work? ...The thing I come away with is that it seems like anything is possible here. In a quite literal way I've been allowed to staple to the floor. That's not possible in 99% of the spaces you're invited to work in... that understanding that a space is a space and it has character and if you want to change it or alter it. That's a real testament to the leadership here... That all those spaces have equal value. And I'll go away with that and remember that."

John Morris tells us about how he integrates everyday objects into his artwork that people may believe are ugly or unappreciated, and through a simple process he allows you to rediscover these objects in a new and beautiful way.

"I think to some extent the goal of the work is... that I would be able to integrate almost anything. Like by peeling, rediscovering the world and maybe appreciating it in a new way... and then learning to integrate these things together in some new way and accepting what they become."

John tells us about how he got started as an artist by doodling and drawing things and how that relates to his current work, and also how his work has to do with pushing boundaries and definitions of certain kinds of artwork.

"My major thing I'm known for is drawing and a lot of things I'm doing in that installation... there is some sense of drawing. Like doodling, I don't know where it's going... I think there is something about this work that is very much about pushing, you know really pushing boundaries and accepting what other things could be and just not defining it in any way. Is this a drawing? Is this a painting? Is this an installation? When does it begin? When does it end?

The audio guides can be found on the Mattress Factory Soundcloud page, or by clicking one of the two links on the Mattress Factory website's home page (the scrolling banner at the top or the "Listen Now" link on the bottom right). Listen to them at the museum or listen from the comfort of your own home!