Go Deeper

Something Cool in Pittsburgh: The Mattress Factory

Posted July 2nd, 2009

My hometown gets a lot of hate here in the eastern half of PA, mostly for the Steelers and linguistic gems like “pop machine” and “gumband.” But Pittsburgh offers a long list of arts and cultural experiences that shouldn’t be missed. Tops on my list is the Mattress Factory, an art museum dedicated to large installations created by resident artists from all over the world. (And no, they don’t make mattresses.)

The first time I went to the Mattress Factory (, my friends and I headed straight for the Yayoi Kusama exhibits, Infinity Dots Mirrored Room and Repetitive Vision. The latter is little more than a mirrored room with polka dots on the floor, but it’s dark inside. Step in and you feel like you’re either on a different planet or in the year 2030. We were the only ones there, so we lay down on the spotted floor, crawled under the mannequins, turned our camera flashes into strobe lights. . . . I can’t quite describe it, but the exhibits make you want to live inside them, not just look at them. And somehow the mannequins, fake hair and all, aren’t creepy. Just awesome.

Fortunately for you, O Philadelphian, these are permanent exhibits, both created in 1996. Kusama’s work was inspired by a waking dream in which she found herself sitting a table with a patterned tablecloth, in a room with patterned wallpaper, and saw that the pattern covered her skin, too. The artist lives in a mental institution in Tokyo–by choice. If that’s not a recipe for creativity, I don’t know what is. (See more of her work here.)

The Mattress Factory’s current featured exhibition, which runs until August 2nd, displays the sculptures of ‘Burgh native Thaddeus Mosley. Mosley’s whole studio and parts of his home have been reconstructed within the museum. From what I can tell, it involves a lot of wood carving, some magazine clipping, and absolutely no mirrors or polka dots. Just in case that’s not your thing.

–Mara Miller

Photos courtesy of The Mattress Factory.