Mattress Factory museum welcomes nine new exhibits


Christy Wu | Staff Photographer

An installation from the new “Night Blooms” exhibit at the Mattress Factory.

By Hayley Lesh, For the Pitt News

Walking through the doors of the Mattress Factory seems like something out of “Alice in Wonderland.” A hall of mirrors shows visitors infinite versions of themselves, while colorful figures hang from the walls.

The opening party for the new Factory Installed 2019 exhibitions at the Mattress Factory in North Side on Friday featured food, drinks and contemporary artwork. The event displayed nine new exhibitions in the Mattress Factory’s main building and in the museum’s annex located on Monterey Street. Exhibitions differed from room to room, showcasing a wide variety of artists and mediums — including mixed-media such as videos and scientific lab equipment.

Some installations contained a single work within a room — such as a glass case filled with plastic hands or a jar of teeth and a bird’s nest in Adam Miller’s “‘Taking good care of your things leads to taking good care of yourself.’” Others filled the space with multi-level displays, like “Laboratory for Other Worlds” by Patte Loper, made from aluminum foil and styrofoam. Laurie Barnes, the director of education for the museum, said the Mattress Factory offers a transformative experience to its attendees.

“What’s super special about [the exhibits] and the Mattress Factory in general is they are all experienced-based installations,” Barnes said. “They really invite viewers to explore and walk through and kind of experience transformed spaces and how those things make you feel, how they might make you think differently, [and] new perspectives they might expose you to.”

The Factory Installed 2019 collection will remain on display until March 2020 as part of the Mattress Factory’s artist residency program, for which candidates are selected by the museum’s administration or through open calls.

Irish artist Naomi Draper, 35, displayed her piece, “Holding Fragments,” in the annex. Inspired by Draper’s interest in botany and large-scale art, the display includes white walls that feature a detailed floral print and a large piece of Queen Anne’s lace painted gold, meant to represent sanctuary. 

“I’m really interested in the scale energy and ambition and intention of kind of collecting throughout history, particularly with botany.” Draper said.

Denver based artist and composer Nathan Hall, 37, displayed his exhibits “About Place” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me” in the annex as well. Hall said he was partially inspired by his friendship with the museum’s former director, Barbara Luderowski. His piece “About Place” features a choir singing in the museum’s parking lot, and serves as a tribute to Luderowski.

“The very last thing she told me was that I needed to write a piece about the museum’s parking lot, and then she passed away so I thought ‘well I need to honor her spirit this way, to try to incorporate music and the space of this parking lot,’” said Hall.

“You’re Not the Boss of Me” features a small harpsichord held in the air by red bondage rope that spreads across a corner of the room. He said it represents the overlap between his love of music and love of kink.

“This piece is sort of my intersection between my classical music training, I’m a composer, and my interest in bondage and kink as a gay man and kind of where those things interlap or overlap, intersect,” Hall said.

Many of the exhibits at the Mattress Factory were centered on interactions between the audience and the work. Patrick Robideau’s installation “All is Not Forgotten,” features a deserted landscape that includes the exterior of a house, a pair of shoes and a long rope set behind a glass window.

Attendees can go inside the exhibit by crawling through a lighted tunnel underneath the display. Many attendees took the opportunity at the opening party to move on their hands and knees to fully experience the exhibit, which Barnes said is a major purpose of the new works.

“What this artist is providing for me to walk through, to touch, to smell, to hear that might transform the way that I am looking at the art, but also the way I might be thinking about the world too,” Barnes said.

Sohrab Kashani and Jon Rubin’s exhibit allowed visitors to walk through part of Kashani’s life in “The Other Apartment,”. Rubin and Kashani created a life size replica of Kashani’s apartment in Iran. Kashani regularly sent photographs of the apartment to Rubin, who is based in Pittsburgh, because he is not permitted to travel to the United States due to the current travel ban on Iranian citizens. Kashani uses his apartment in Tehran as a space for exhibition and for an artist residency — the first ever in Iran. He worked collaboratively with Rubin for this project.

North Side native Pam Grove, 66, said she likes the fresh take the artists offer in the exhibition. Grove, who has visited the Mattress Factory many times and is familiar with the permanent installations, enjoys the way the new art is similarly interactive.

“I just like the way that you can not only look at things, but you are in them,” Grove said. “You don’t experience it without being here, so that’s what’s kind of neat about it.”