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From my recent stay in Pittsburgh I’ve shown you Randyland, which writer/adventurers Susan Reimer,  Ginny Smith,   Carrie Engel and I stumbled upon while playing hooky from hotel conference rooms. We were on our way to another destination,  installation-art gallery the Mattress Factory, which had been called a “must-see” by keynote speaker Rick Darke. We weren’t sure why, but we were willing to go find out.

Above, a representative shot of the landscape we found outside the Factory, about which we concluded “No garden here!” and kept looking.

Above is the other outdoor space we found at the Factory, which left us still wondering what was up with this place and why was Rick so emphatic about our not missing it?  So back home, I wrote to ask him that and he replied:

 Winifred Lutz’ work at The Mattress Factory celebrates the urban cultural landscape in a way that respects history but is not devoted to historic re-creation or restoration. Complete with wild and grassy growth, Lutz’s reinterpretation of ruin set an important precedent for the less scripted, more dynamic aesthetic that continues garner support.

The late Paul vanMeter at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. Photo by Rick Darke.

So, it’s a ruin (!) and we should just ignore that second space we found. Rick added about the ruin that it “struck the same chord as Peter Latz’ prescient re-imagining of the blast furnace site that is now Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, in Germany’s Ruhr region” and sent me the photo above that he took at the Mattress Factory.

Now I’m a huge fan of the ruin garden at Chanticleer near Philly, and who isn’t?  It’s stunning. (Lots more ruin photos here.)

Ruin Garden at Chanticleer.

But the awesomeness of the ruin garden at the Mattress Factory was lost on us, so does that make us hayseeds? Ditto a couple of the exhibits we ventured through.  (It’s installation art, so you move through it.)  Again, I’m down with installation art, though I confess to breaking the stated rule and using my iPhone flashlight in the total darkness we were supposed to be experiencing.  For women, at least us four, it was more creepy than interesting or fun. Again, is it us?

Finally, we came upon an exhibit we enjoyed – eight rooms in an old house, all covered with yarn.

The piece is Trace of Memory by Chiharu Shiota.   Here’s a short description: “Stretched in multi-layers in a gallery space, Shiota weaves disorienting cocoons of black yarn that reflect the artist’s desire to ‘draw in the air.’”

I’ve since learned that the Smithsonian Institution in DC was just “yarn-bombed” over Labor Day Weekend, following a design by the same artist. Here’s a video about it.

Posted by

Susan Harris
on September 2, 2014 at 3:03 pm, in the category But is it Art?.


  1. Winifred was one of my instructors in graduate school. She’s a very focused, intense person. We were lucky enough to be get a personal introduction to that piece from her or its subtleties might have been lost on me as well.

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