Pennsylvania – Days 1-2: A Quick Hike and A Day of Art

It was windy and cloudy and cold and a little rainy my first day in Pennsylvania, so I stayed in and made it a work day. Day two didn't start off much better. I started at the Wintergreen Gorge in Erie, PA. I took a bagel with peanut butter and went on a short jaunt along the river, but I was freezing so I didn't go far. It was really pretty though.

Wintergreen Gorge, Erie, PA.

Wintergreen Gorge, Erie, PA.

Then I made my way to Pittsburgh where I checked out the Mattress Factory Museum. I almost missed it at first because Google Maps had me going down what looked like a sketchy back alley to get there. Turns out, that was, in fact, where the entrance was. I ended up walking around a really large block before circling back and going inside. The neighborhood reminded me of some of the boroughs in NYC - all the buildings smushed together and cars lining the streets. It was pretty deserted though. In NYC there would've been way more people out and about.

With my reciprocal museum card I got into the Mattress Factory for free, which was nice. I probably would've been disappointed if I'd spent $20 to go. The student discount was only $15 though and I probably would've been fine with that. The first piece I saw was this big structure made out of cardboard and wood and glass. There was a door and I really wanted to open it and go look around inside, but this was a museum, so I probably wasn't supposed to touch it. I went to read more about the piece and lo and behold in pretty big letters at the bottom of the plaque it said PLEASE ENTER. Woo hoo! I don't even think I finished reading the plaque, I just turned around and went right in.

From inside the piece Faculty, by Rob Voerman, 2015, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

From inside the piece Faculty, by Rob Voerman, 2015, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

After exploring the inside of the piece I finished reading the plaque. The space was designed to reflect the heritage rooms at the Cathedral of Learning, an academic building at the University of Pittsburgh. It was meant to serve as a functional meeting space where people are encouraged to reflect on themselves and sustainability. It was pretty cool.

The next super awesome piece I encountered was called Spherodendron. According to its plaque a Spherodendron, sphero-(round) dendron-(tree), "is an idealized network." It was made out of what looked like wire and some sort of glow in the dark clay looking substance. The Spherodendron was set up in a dark space and when I entered it was so dark I couldn't tell where other people or any furniture in the room was. There was just this large, five feet in diameter I'd say, sphere floating in the middle of the room with little dots glowing around at different points. Then, for a few seconds some lights came up on it and I was able to see both the rest of the room and the piece better. Realizing there were no obstacles in my way I moved closer to get a better look. Up close I could see the wires interconnected to form the network and at first I thought the glowing ends were fiber optics. When the lights dimmed down again I realized it was some sort of glow in the dark material, because it had that distinct green color to it. Since it was so dark it was hard to get a good picture of it, so here's the best I could do:

Doesn't even remotely do it justice...Spherodendron, by Bill Smith, 2015 Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Doesn't even remotely do it justice...Spherodendron, by Bill Smith, 2015 Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

The Mattress Factory is made up of three different buildings. I started on the 4th floor of the 500 Sampsonia Way building and worked my way down and around to the other buildings. On the third floor of 500 Sampsonia Way there was this exhibit where I had to cover or take my shoes off. Inside was a mirrored room withblacklights and neon dots on the floor making everything super trippy. Through a door on the other side of the room was another mirrored room, this one with red dots and regular lights and mannequins, it was also kind of unnerving.

 

Infinity Dots Mirrored Room, Yayoi Kusama, 1996, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Trippy, no? Infinity Dots Mirrored Room, Yayoi Kusama, 1996, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Repetitive Vision, Yayoi Kusama, 1996, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Repetitive Vision, Yayoi Kusama, 1996, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

On the second floor of the first building there was a room that looked like it just had a blue rectangle projection on a wall, but when I got closer a sign said touch carefully and when I reached out there was no wall! Instead it was a room, probably twelve feet by nine feet illuminated by blacklights and giving the appearance of just being two-dimensional from far away, it was super cool. There was also another exhibit on that floor, but apparently only two people could go in at a time and it was fifteen minutes long, so since I came later in the day there weren't any passes left to see it. Lame.

While consulting my museum guide just now for reference I see that I missed the basement and outdoor exhibits at 500 Sampsonia Way. Oops. The first floor was just the gift shop and café and I thought that was all that was left, so I moved on to the next building at 516 Sampsonia Way. The exhibit there was called Trace of Memory by Chiharu Shiota. It was insane. Basically it was black yarn strung in a weblike way around the doors and parts of the rooms of three floors of the museum. Every time I moved to a new room or floor I stopped and wondered how long it took to install this piece and how to do it without getting tangled in the yarn and how to make it look so effortless.

Now imagine this in multiple rooms on three floors of a building...Trace of memory, by Chiharu Shiota, 2013, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Now imagine this in multiple rooms on three floors of a building...Trace of memory, by Chiharu Shiota, 2013, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Then it was on to 1414 Monterey Street. The first floor had a modern future-y feel with algae in giant light bulb looking glass tubes. It was weird, but I kind of liked it. Though apparently not enough to take a picture. Upstairs was a piece called The Color of Temperance: Embodied Energy by Julie Schenkelberg, who, I was unsurprised to find out, had a background in theatre. Her piece definitely reminded me of a theatre set.

Julie Schenkelberg's The Color of Temperance: Embodied Energy, 2015, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Julie Schenkelberg's The Color of Temperance: Embodied Energy, 2015, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Another cool piece in that space that reminded me of theatre was Allan Wexler's Bed Sitting Rooms for an Artist in Residence:

Bed Sitting Rooms for an Artist in Residence, Allan Wexler, 1988, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

Bed Sitting Rooms for an Artist in Residence, Allan Wexler, 1988, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

I think it was mostly the way the furniture functions in either room and how the lights fit right into the wall that made me think of how useful that sort of design could be in either a rep space or in a small theatre without much wing space. On the top floor was another theatrical-esque piece called shift lens by Anne Lindberg where she hung colored thread across a window to filter the light coming in.

shift lens, by Anne Lindberg, 2015, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

shift lens, by Anne Lindberg, 2015, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA.

After the Mattress Factory I tried to go downtown to a park called Point State Park which has a cool fountain, but I couldn't find anywhere to park. I drove around for at least twenty minutes before I finally gave up and found a different park to go to. I ended up at Highland Park, further from downtown, where I easily found parking. It was really nice. I walked around for a bit and then sat and journaled and read and then walked around while reading. A lovely end to a perfectly chill day.

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