Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tom Sarver, "The Tom Museum" at the Mattress Factory.

Last night I went to the preview of new installations at the Mattress Factory. I don't think people in Pittsburgh realize just what a great resource this place is. It adds a hint of international credibility for Pittsburgh in the arts sphere. Whenever I do make it a point to go to the museum, I always wonder why I haven't been there in such a long time.

The inspiration for this particular visit was the opening of the "Tom Museum" (at 410 Samsonia Way), an installation centered around the life and work of local artist Tom Sarver. Artists can be a notably envious lot, and if it's appropriate to reward just one with such indulgence, then I am glad Tom was chosen. For those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting him, he's a very generous and accessible guy. I felt particularly welcome yesterday as Tom took the time, in the calm before the storm of his official unveiling, to give me a personal tour of his new living/working/installation space.

The exterior of the townhouse (which belongs to the Director of the Mattress Factory) has a colorful mural done in Tom's bright cartoon-like style. Walking through the front door, you enter a fantastic foyer with carved wooden stairs, like a monotone version of a Dr. Seuss environment. You step through another door, and are treated to a video feed from a piece in the basement. Down another short stairway, and through the reception room, you reach Tom's conceptualization and media documentation room. Out the backdoor, there is a courtyard that will be transformed over the next few months. His companions will be two interns from the museum, and the killer Rottweiller that lives in the yard behind his (don't worry, Tom has installed additional reinforcement to the back fence!). And visitors, of course. The intention is to encourage day-to-day interaction with the museum's patrons. He plans a series of special events throughout the life of the installation. One of Tom's annual projects is intensive partcipation in the Black Sheep Puppet Festival. This October, he is planning to move the festival's puppet-making workshop to the Tom Museum.

The second floor of the house consists of Tom's handmade puppet archives, and the one room he has alloted himself for personal living space. The third floor is yet another work in-progress (and you'll just have to visit in the future to see what he has planned- I know what it is, and believe me, it's gonna be worth the wait). Sarver has plenty of time to complete his vision- he will live and work out of his museum for the next eight months. After that, who knows? Tom talks of maybe wanting to take some varaition of the concept on the road, or continue his developing relationship with large-scale mural work.

The Tom Museum can be visited Wednesday through Sunday, between the hours of 11AM and 5PM. Contact the Mattress Factory for further details. This is a must-see.

*And if you want some additional "Tom", please make sure to stop in at the very first traveling exhibition from the "Tom Museum" at the Digging Pitt Too. The opening reception is this Thurday (the 14th), from 6-9PM, on the corner of 45th and Plummer Streets in Lawrenceville (Pittsburgh).

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