Great road trip to Pittsburgh last weekend. Why Pittsburgh? Some really awesome arty stuff there, that’s why. First off, Pittsburgh is Andy Warhola’s hometown!

First stop: the Warhol Museum. Warhol was a leader in the Pop Art movement, which artist Richard Hamilton described as “popular, transient, expandable, low cost, mass produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, big business.”

Started off one of the best arty days ever by fortifying ourselves with the best hot and fresh donuts ever, which were spit out by an old-fashioned donut machine in a restaurant inside a former train station.

Next up, my new favorite art space: the Mattress Factory…

… a museum of contemporary art that exhibits room-sized works called installations. Created on site by artists from across the country and around the world, our unique exhibitions feature a variety of media that engage all of the senses.


The permanent installations include two rooms by Yayoi Kusama. So so so cool.

Her work explores the obliteration of the self, as the viewer becomes part of the work, reflected in mirrors, obstructed by organic forms, almost as if being sucked into the walls. Yayoi Kusama lives, by choice, in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo.

I felt like I had just been in a psychiatric hospital after spending time in these loony rooms

Hard to see but the person standing to my left in this picture is Danielle, a friend from DC. Bumped into her while getting off the elevator! She had rushed over between wedding activities (not her own!) to get an art fix.


This Sarah Oppenheimer piece is supposedly not a permanent one. But heck, they let her cut a hole through the museum to the outside. Might as well keep the dang thing. Also sooooooo cool!

This aperture, or “wormhole,” as Oppenheimer refers to the type of hole she created, offers a new line of sight within the exhibition space and functions as both a hole and a screen, directing the viewer’s gaze down and out the third floor window. The hole creates a disorienting sense of an impossible proximity between the fourth floor and the external world outside.

The space of display—the museum gallery—is transformed from a container for specific objects into a lensed view of the outside world. The fourth floor gallery floor and the third floor window are part of the work. The shaped hole in the interior floor extends through the armature, framing a vista out the side of the building. In this way, Oppenheimer has created a zone for pictorial reflection. The view of the outside world is framed and is accepted as the work.


From a darkened entryway, you walk into a long, white-walled room. On the far wall stretches a rectangle in lavender grey. As you move toward it, you slowly realize that instead of a painting, or a solid plane of any kind, it is an opening into a smaller room saturated with ultraviolet light.

This James Turrell is one of his three permanent installations at the Mattress Factory. I wish I could say more than just, “Wow.” But, wow! It’s always difficult to capture a work’s beauty or texture or essence or whatever in a tiny jpg. But capturing Turrell’s art in a photograph is a virtual impossibility. So you must go to Pittsburgh to see these works for yourself. The most astounding Turrell piece at the Factory is impossible to photograph because it entails sitting in a dark room for at least 15 minutes before your eyes adjust enough to “see” anything at all.

The neighborhood around the Mattress Factory had a funky feel. Lots of gentrification and all that typical stuff that goes on whenever artists move in. Steel Town had sort of an old world, industrial feel in general that I rather enjoyed. Lots of potential for cheap artist spaces! Saw a sign for riverview loft apartments starting at $500/month!


Lots of beautiful bridges span the three rivers that intersect in Pittsburgh: the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio.


Stopped in at the Carnegie Museum of Art and saw this nifty installation:

Opera for a Small Room, a collaboration between Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, introduces visitors to the quirky world of a man named R. Dennehy, the owner of a collection of opera records that the artists purchased at a second-hand store in British Columbia, Canada. The installation, which Cardiff and Miller describe as “a small room for the opera of Dennehy’s life,” features a structure filled with records, lights, and other knickknacks. Visitors can peer into the ramshackle room through holes in the walls, but are not able to enter it. Music pouring out of 24 antique loud speakers permeates the gallery, echoed by the rhythm of pulsating lights. The music, record players, and lights become the “actors” in this theatrical and durational work that conveys a dramatic and individual narrative portrait.

How the heck did I find myself at the Union Town VFW? Because I was hanging out with fab artist Kerry Skarbakka, who moved to Pittsburgh two years ago. He’s working on a new body of work that involves breaking bones and getting bruised and cut up while amateur boxing. We accompanied him on this research mission and lemme tell ya, your life experiences are not complete if you have not checked off “amateur boxing night at the VFW” from your bucket list.

The Pennsylvania branch of the Soprano family (on the drive to Fallingwater).


No road trip to Pittsburgh would have been complete without a stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Remarkable place. Still awe-inspiring even on the second visit.