One of my favorite places to take visiting friends is the Mattress Factory. It’s like the hidden gem of Pittsburgh–everyone wants to go to the Warhol but I would recommend the Mattress Factory over that one any day because it’s such an immersive experience and I always feel a tiny bit like Alice in Wonderland when I visit.
I also walk away with a myriad of interior design concepts, much to Henry’s chagrin.
(I think if I ever wrote an auto-biography, it would be titled And It Was Much to Henry’s Chagrin, actually.)
Anyway! I was stoked when Michelle opted to explore the MF over the Warhol, so I met her and Kira there during a Sunday downpour. I had hoped that the rain and the Penguins playoff game would keep people at home and out of my sacred factory of no-mattresses, but alas, it ended up being the most crowded I’ve even seen it.
Which still wasn’t that crowded, but I’ve been spoiled over the years and have grown accustomed to having this place nearly all to myself!
The top floor is currently occupied by an eye-candy expo produced by a Brazilian duo called OSGEMEOS I was gushing about how it was living room goals for me and Michelle was like, “Yu’re pretty much halfway there, aren’t you?” SIGH, I GUESS but Henry still hasn’t helped me with the humongous light-up Seoul wall-hanging I dreamt up. And my dining room and kitchen are crying for color.
Maybe OSGEMEOS can take up residency in my house and help out a little. (A lot.)
I was really inspired back then by an artist I met at the Three Rivers Arts Festival – Robert Villamagna. That man really opened my eyes to the world of making art from repurposed materials and I still have the postcard he signed for me from 1996!
When I was dating Psycho Mike, back in 1997, he moved out of his parents house in the beginning of that summer and was living in some glorified drug den (let’s be real, he lived with an ex-con and some other questionable character above a Pittsburgh Paints store in Little Washington). I made him this awesome (in my eyes) mixed media piece for his room so he would have some sort of character, flavor if you will. Plus, he lived an hour away from me at that point and I didn’t drive, so we didn’t get to see each other that much. Anyway, I used some leftover wallpaper from my bedroom as the background, and that wallpaper was a throwback to that foil-craze of the 60s and 70s. It was awesome, silver foil with purple and white splatter-overlay. I can’t remember offhand all the things that went into this piece, but it was like a nostalgia collage that featured things that were pertinent to our relationship, and I had strands of beaded curtains hanging from it (the chunky plastic ones that Spencer’s used to sell in the 90s) and I had it rigged with several large Christmas candle bulbs, so it lit up too.
That motherfucker appreciated it as much as Lori Laughlin’s brat-daughter appreciated her bullshit college admission. I wish I had taken it back but I’m sure somewhere along the way it ended up in some syringe-filled dumpster in Washington.
Anyway, my point is, I have been a fan of outrageous mixed media works since my impressionable teenage years and still cherish the one lone Villamagna piece I have on my wall that I bought 15 years ago when I was broke and definitely probably should have been using that money to pay rent or like, buy food maybe. So yeah, these OSGEMEOS bros really breathed some color into that rainy day.
I feel like Henry would have really liked this wall for some reason?
There’s a zoetrope in one room which only runs at certain times, and Michelle had to explain to me what a zoetrope is because I’m an art poser. We had about 45 minutes before the soonest zoetrope showing so we decided we’d explore the rest of the exhibits and go back up closer to 2. It was about 1:55 when we returned and that room was already starting to fill up with people and of course the tallest people were standing in the front, flaunting their giraffe-like physiques while the rest of us were trying to peer through the crooks of their arms.
One of the MF docents, before gearing up the zoetrope, did ask all of the tall people to move off to the side so that was kind of them but then some asshole mom who was “looking for her son” (yeah right) came out of nowhere and planted her feet right in front of me. What an asshole.
Through a series of calculated contortions, I was able to see enough of the zoetrope and then I retreated to the back of the room because it was starting to feel like being near the barricade at a metal show and I couldn’t breathe. This is not how I want to experience art, thanks!
It was still cool though and Kira got a good front-row spot so that was all that mattered to me because I am a selfless human being (at times).
And now, here are some more fotos of our jaunt through the Mattress Factory.
The Yayoi Kusama exhibit is a permanent installation and I probably have 57 photos from this room over the years but it just never gets old posing with the polka-dotted mannequins.
Taemin came with me this time!
After perusing the four floors in the main building, Kira cried art-uncle, so we said our goodbyes and made a million promises to hang out again soon (I want to take them to Kennywood and Michelle tipped me off about a new art museum opening in Columbus, so I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see each other again before summer ends!), and then I walked down the street to see the two annexes. One of them still had the same exhibit as the last time I visited and while it’s really cool, I hate that building because the hallways are extremely narrow and it actually reminds me a little bit of trying to navigate through the old Chuck E. Cheese “Cheese Factory” of yore, props to you if you remember this hell-house from the 80s! The only way out of this building is the same way you entered, so once you get to the third floor, you have to turn around and squeeze past everyone behind you and it’s so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable and the last time I was there, I panicked because I bumped into part of the exhibit and thought I broke it BUT PROBABLY NO ONE WOULD HAVE EVEN NOTICED.
The second annex was sad times because the main room was closed in preparation for the next display, so there was way less to see, considering most of the stuff in that building is a permanent collection. However, I was only there for the “Screen” exhibit anyway, so what did I care.
I kept seeing people posting pictures of it on Instagram but I couldn’t see past MY FAVORITE COLOR COMBO OF PINK AND GREEN (maybe second only to pink and gold) to realize what was actually going on here until I was there myself.
Fun fact about me: when I was about 3 or 4, we moved into my dad’s house in Castle Shannon (this was back before my mom married him and he officially adopted me). I’m sure it had something to do with the trauma of being uprooted, but I fucking SWEAR TO GOD I used to see this tiny green man running across my bedroom floor. Like three times I saw him! It could have also been because my aunt Susie used to try to scare me when we’d be in the car by pointing out the window and saying, “DID YOU SEE THAT LITTLE GREEN MAN OUT THERE?!” and then I’d be all, “PAPPAP MAKE HER STOP BEING MEAN TO ME!” Rinse, repeat. Maybe I just had little green men on the brain and psychically manifested them into my vision, OR MAYBE THEY WERE REAL. In any case, these green men were a definite blast from the past, albeit a bit taller and, um, nude-r.
I would definitely remember if I saw a green man weener back then. It probably would have changed the trajectory of my life, even!
GUYS, THAT’S ME!
It took me a hot minute to realize what was happening here but once I figured it out with my Big Bad Brain, I was obsessed with playing around with it!
Welp, that concludes another trip to the Mattress Factory. I wonder how many times a day someone asks the docents, “but when are we going to see the mattresses?” a la Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.