Monday, October 26, 2015

RECAP // Coffee Date with John Morris

Saturday, October 24, 2015

MF members joined Pittsburgh-based artist John Morris this past Saturday for another edition of the Mattress Factory’s Coffee Date series, where art talk and breakfast treats go hand-in-hand. John Morris’ work “Life, Afterlife” is currently exhibiting at 1414 Monterey Street as part of 2015's Factory Installed exhibition.

John describes himself as a life-long doodler, and “Life, Afterlife” as an evolution of his doodles and earlier two-dimensional drawings. He studied at the Pratt Institute in New York, where he primarily focused on commercial illustration. As his artistic experimentation progressed, he began to see paper as a barrier. His current creative process is the result of eliminating paper and his unique three-dimensional drawing techniques. 

Members discovered that the installation's translucent menagerie of utensils, drooping bottles, and other objects are not made out of glass, but actually acrylic medium. John draws using clear acrylic medium on glass and then peels it off, creating cast objects evocative of “glass antiquities” as one member put it. These objects also respond to gravity, slowly wilting, transforming and distorting over time.
A talented member shares her sketch from the Coffee Date.

Other fascinating tidbits include:
  • It took three weeks for John to install “Life, Afterlife.”
  • Most objects were actually found/created beforehand, and then transported to the Mattress Factory in a cabinet that MF staff member Caitlin Harpster described as a “very orderly, surprising source of chaos.”
  • John’s sources of inspiration over the course of his artistic career range from Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel to Beatriz Milhazes.
Want to learn the insider’s story behind other Mattress Factory art works? Join us for our next Coffee Date on November 7 with Bill Smith! This is a special edition Coffee Date, where a full breakfast bonanza will be served as part of our Member Appreciation Week, a week-long celebration featuring member-exclusive programming and discount prices on memberships!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

RECAP // Factory 500 @ Alloy Pittsburgh at Carrie Furnaces

Armed with steaming cups of hot apple cider, Factory 500members traversed the grounds of the Carrie Furnaces, an unlikely yet striking setting for contemporary installation art. 

Carrie Furnaces, built in 1907, is home to two non-operative blast furnaces that produced iron for Homestead Works up until 1978. Left unmaintained, the site began to show its years with plant overgrowth, rust, and graffiti. Now, as part of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, Carrie Furnaces is undergoing a post-industrial renaissance as a historical, cultural, and artistic center.

Alloy Pittsburgh has led this renaissance with their biannual program, offering 15 artists from the greater Pittsburgh region the opportunity to develop temporary site-based artworks at Carrie Furnaces. Factory 500 members were treated to a tour led by Alloy Pittsburgh co-founders Chris McGinnis and Sean Derry, with artists present to introduce and discuss their own works.

The artworks spoke to the rich history and unique structural environment of Carrie Furnaces.

The crunch of coke coal underneath member's feet carried an eerie note in Sarika Goulatia's work Strength of Stele.
Rose Clancy showed members her process in action. She creates brilliant colors and textures by wrapping and placing objects found on site with white fabric and dousing them with water repeatedly over time.

The tour wrapped up with everyone gathered around a toasty bonfire. That evening, Alloy Pittsburgh held a film screening of Modern Times accompanied by a dinner, which members were invited to attend.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event! Stay tuned for news of our next Factory 500 event.

Factory 500 is the Mattress Factory's premier membership program, chaired by Susan Lammie. The group tours private collections, artist studios, local businesses, and other interesting arts destinations in Pittsburgh several times throughout the year. Don't miss out - Join today! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

RECAP // Coffee Date with Anne Lindberg

On Saturday, October 17, MF members escaped the chilly autumn winds for a cozy breakfast chat with artist Anne Lindberg. Anne, whose work "shift lens" is on view now at1414 Monterey Street as part of the 2015 Factory Installed exhibition, shared delightful anecdotes ranging from her experiences at the Mattress Factory to the genesis of her striking thread-installation works.

Members learned that "shift lens" was the first time Anne worked with daylight as an active component of her artwork. The installation process, which took a team of three people and only five days, involved responding to the ever-changing quality of light in the space, through choice of color and placement of thread. Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk, co-directors of the Mattress Factory, also shared insights into the building’s domestic history.

In between donut bites and sips of pumpkin-spice flavored tea, members peppered Anne with more questions regarding her previous works. One member asked Anne specifically about her 2005 piece Democracy, which drew from the political climate surrounding the Iraq War. Another person asked about her two-dimensional graphite drawings (which actually involve a custom-built 10-foot drawing board!).

Yet another member brought up the synesthetic qualities of "shift lens," which was well highlighted by the recent Art + Conversation, where Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra cellist Mikhail Istomin played a unique accompaniment to Anne's piece.

Interested in asking Mattress Factory artists your own questions? Check out the upcoming Coffee Date with John Morris this coming Saturday, October 24! RSVP by emailing For more information or to become a member, please visit

Coffee and tea was provided courtesy of Zeke’s Coffee and Arnold’s Tea.

Monday, October 19, 2015

ANNOUNCING // "Factory Installed @ 500 Sampsonia Way" Artist Interviews

Factory Installed @ 500 Sampsonia Way has opened. We have brand new artist interviews with exhibiting artists Rob Voerman, Bill Smith, Lisa Sigal and Marnie Weber!

The Mattress Factory Soundcloud page now hosts 34 different audio guides that cover most of our permanent exhibitions, commentary on the museum's history, mission and programming, and artist interviews for the Factory Installed exhibition currently on view at our 1414 Monterey and 500 Sampsonia Way galleries. Here are some highlights of the conversations with exhibiting artists.

"...It is a work based on one of the famous landmarks here in Pittsburgh, the Cathedral of Learning. I was fascinated when I saw it on the internet, that someone initiated such an ambitious project just for functioning of learning and study. So I thought that really fits with the way I work, some installations are really programmed to do workshops, lectures and so... and then I found out about the Nationality Rooms, and I thought let's take some, almost like a fragment of this building and make my own Nationality Room which is not actually a nationality but a bit undescribed. It is a space to reflect and to think also about where we are heading to, how do we engage to future problems, issues... and just also a place to enjoy."

"I started making installations 12 years ago or something and at first it was spaces you could just sit in and sometimes it became a bar. And in recent years  I used them a bit more for engagement. I was always engaged in ecology and politics and all kids of aspects. I noticed that these installations that you can program them, make a side program in and around them based on the content of the works and the context, where the work is. I really like that I can actually use these installations in sometimes not only a safe environment in a museum but also in a public or semi-public space..."

"Well I built a structure that, you know, I just try to build things the way I think nature would build things. And it just happened that I built a round structure that uses materials very efficiently, and it just became a branching structure in 360 degrees... And later, after analyzing it, it's a network, cause everything is interconnected... After I built it, I did some research about networks, and it turns out that there's a lot of networks that... look very similar to the thing I built. Just recently, I got contacted by a network researcher that was putting a textbook together, and they wanted to use a picture of that, in front of a chapter that's related to spreading phenomenon, like the way disease spreads throughout a population... So that was kind of nice that somebody saw it online and recognized it as being representative of some kind of phenomenon like that."

"As far as people, I mean I think I have the best conversations with people off the street... Sometimes you'll get, maybe somebody from a university, that kind of 'poo-poos' it just because it's art, and then you get artists that look at it, and they don't know what's going on. So, I think that's probably the most important people to connect with anyway, is the people off the street, so I'm okay with that... I just got an idea and it's one that I can work with for a long time, so I'm just trying to do something practical... Art isn't just having fun, it's serious... and there's a need for creative people to solve problems, because there are a lot of problems... There's so much need for new ideas these days, and it's so fertile for that, I mean now's the time to do it."

"So when I was asked to do this show at the Mattress Factory I started to think about displacing the walls and lots of the vocabulary that I had been thinking about with imagery, because I have been exploring imagery as well. And using imagery of places that have... maybe this is another tangent to go off on... just thinking a lot about displacement and gentrification. I started to work on sheet rock, I started to paint and then, it's a love / hate relationship with that material, it falls apart, it crumbles, it's heavy, even though it claims not to be. So I decided that it would be interesting to hand-make something that is fabricated."

"It is actually especially poignant me speaking to you today because I realized this morning it's Septermber 11th, and not that my career as an artist began on September 11th, but somehow my thinking about making paintings shifted on that day. I had been installing for a month at a gallery in Chelsea... and so I guess during the course of that show I kept thinking about the ways in which we as artists bring our content to our work. Or bring expectation that there is meaning to what we do. When something as horrific as this day how many years ago in 2001, it emptied out the meaning. It was just like... whatever the wall surface, it's nothing. And there was something that of course a month later you're like, yeah, you're right, it does have meaning because this is what I do, this is my community and this is what I decided to do with my life, but it's also meaningless. What happened was I began to think about this tension of something both having meaning and not and seeing things and then they disappear. So that was my beginning with making installations and it came through painting..."

"The Mattress Factory was a unique situation because typically museums want to know everything you are going to do ahead of time. So this was a very fun project because I was able to see the space and then imagine what could be in it. The space looked like a tunnel to me so I thought it would be nice to put a giant child's model of a steam engine blown up as a ghost... when I was growing up I lived in Taiwan for a year and we had a steam engine track near our house... I would hear the sounds of the steam engine starting up around the time I was introduced to the concept of metaphor and I think it was the first time I really understood the metaphor of the train as it being a beast or a monster or alive, all the things that people attribute steam engine sounds to. So it seemed perfect. And I wanted it to be a ghost train because it is a nice metaphor for transforming into the non-material world."

"The masks are characters I get to know, that I feel I have a chemistry with. I have a huge collection and I reuse them and they go off onto different journeys of their own to different museums or galleries or situations, films... Once the whole body and the head are put together and completed, you feel like it could almost be like a totem, a wandering spirit inhabits the piece and is standing there. I have had some very strange uncanny moments in my studio with some of the completed characters. People have told me that in museums and galleries sometimes they feel like there is a presence in the figure and I would love that to be true... I would love to have a wandering spirit find a home and settle and enjoy the audience that comes through to see the piece."

Thursday, October 15, 2015

RECAP // Mini-Factory: SEASONS!

What a beautiful time of year! Tje sunshine, breeze and slight chill in the air made for a perfect chance to talk about SEASONS at Mini-Factory, the Mattress Factory's program for adventurous young art explorers. Using two great installations as our focal point, we discussed the characteristics of each season such as hot versus cold, green versus brown, or growing versus hibernating.

Garden Installation by Winifred Lutz provided the perfect example for our group to discover and talk about these SEASONal traits. Leaves are just beginning to turn colors of yellow, red and brown, yet the grass is still tall and green. The breeze was chilly yet the sun was bright and sky blue - a perfect Fall day to explore these color and temperature changes through landscape art.

Rolf Julius provides a more abstract example of SEASONS with Ash located at the Mattress Factory's 1414 Monterey satellite building. Here, our group of 3 to 5 year-olds listened to a synthesis of crickets and radiator whistles pouring out of two terra cotta flower pots covered in ash. The sounds of crickets are reminiscent of warm summer nights, contrasted by the whistle of a radiator which makes us think of chilly winter days. If you could choose a sound to put in the flower pot, what would it be? A kiss! ...well that reminds us of Valentine's day when it is cold outside.

Returning to the Garden, we set out on our activity - a chameleon for all SEASONS. Each young artist was given a blank picture of a chameleon along with a basket of crayons and colored pencils. Choose where the chameleon would live in the garden, then reflect this in his colors. Would he live in a tree? ... in the grass and dirt? ... on the pile of yellow and red leaves? There were green and brown chameleons, yellow and purple chameleons ... each one was different and unique depending on the area of the garden, yet all reflected the colors of the SEASON.

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 October 24th for LIGHT.

Friday, October 9, 2015

PREVIEW // Art + Conversation

Anne Lindberg was inspired by a collaboration between composer Philip Glass and sculptor Richard Serra. The idea of marrying art and music inspired Anne and the museum to create a very special Art + Conversation program.

On Thursday, October 15th shift lens will be accompanied by a one-time-only performance by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Cellist/Pittsburgh Piano Trio Founder Mikhail Istomin. Following, there will be a conversation between "Factory Installed" exhibition artists Anne Lindberg and Julie Schenkelberg where they will discuss their work and process in the lobby of 500 Sampsonia Way. There will be a cash bar and admission is pay-what-you-wish. The program is FREE for MF Members and students from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh and Point Park University. Space is very limited! RSVP today:

Anne's piece Shift Lens, part of the "Factory Installed" exhibition, was in itself a performance creating its own music as it was being constructed.

"So there is a gesture moving in two directions and the piece is viewable from one side, the outdoors is on the other side... The thread is held taut with staples and the line, 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, it makes a little bit of noise. This sort of rhythm of drawing back and forth and that performative quality is really interesting to me."

Julie Schenkelberg is also a Mattress Factory artist whose piece The Color of Temperance: Embodied Energy is part of the "Factory Installed" exhibition. Julie describes her process of collecting materials to compose her piece and the narrative she tries to convey to the viewer.

"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 therefor 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."