A Season of Stuff is a writing challenge that I will be doing for the length of Spring 2016. The plan – to pick some object from within my personal possessions each day and write about it – its history, its significance, etc. Come on in – check out my stuff.
From the summer of 2002 through the summer of 2006 I worked at the Mattress Factory, a museum of site-specific work located on Pittsburgh’s Northside. My first job there was working the exhibit of James Turrell’s “Gasworks”, an interactive piece where viewers would lay down in this gurney type thing and get rolled inside this round structure where they got bombarded with a light show of sorts for something like 8-10 minutes. I had to wear a lab coat. It was definitely the weirdest thing I’ve ever done for a job.
After that exhibit was over, I worked part-time/seasonally for the next couple years doing art installation and gallery attendant work. In 2004 I would get a full-time gig there working in the office (and still getting to occasionally help with art installation).
During my time there they were frequently doing a series of small site-specific shows featuring mostly local artists. These shows were called “Gestures”. Getting to work with national and international artists on the big shows was great, but these smaller “Gestures” shows were a really nice chance to get to meet local artists.
In the spring of 2003 the “Gestures” show featured Post-Gazette political cartoonist Rob Rogers. For his piece he produced this series of ten 1.75″ buttons and set up two bubblegum machines. One machine was marked “Good” and the other “Evil” with the “appropriate” pins in each. For fifty cents you could get one of the pins. The pin designs were a great snapshot of the political climate in post 9/11 America. The whole presentation turned out great – fun, political and engaging. Being that I worked there, I was able to collect all 10 pins easily.
This presentation would be in the back of my head a decade later (I mean, now that i’m looking at it, like almost precisely a decade later) when I did the “Inch by Inch, Block by Block” one-inch button art show at Roboto in April 2013. During this show I displayed several hundred 1″ buttons from my collection and the collections of about a half-dozen other friends. I built special frames for them all so they wouldn’t get stolen and so they’d look like “real” art. But the other fun part of the show was I had some people design special pins for the show and had a bunch made up. And then I went ahead and bought a gumball machine so people could walk away with a pin from the show.
It’s just one of the little things I took away from working at that job, but I really did learn so much at my time there – about the world of art, the process of constructing and putting together art shows and live events, working in a non-profit, keeping a crazy office organized, dealing with difficult people…man, that place had it all.