Archive for May, 2010


Gestures, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA

A few month ago I was invited by guest curator Katherine Talcott to create a work for the Gestures exhibition at Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory. I was assigned a space within the museum and on May 1, my wife, Chris, and I installed the work. The work, titled Talk to Me: Real Words from Real People, consists of 25 mixed-media figures. Each figure has a speech balloon and within each balloon is a quote that I have had said to me or I have overheard. The earliest quote is one from my mother when I was 18 years old. Here is my statement for the exhibition:

Gestures Statement

May 6, 2010

As a kid I looked forward to the carnivals that would arrive in the Ohio River valley every spring. While I loved the rides and games of chance, it was the sideshow that I found most intriguing. As he stood against a wall of freaks illustrated on huge stretches of canvas, the barker would yell out, “They’re alive…. on the inside!” This combination of the visual and the oral, and its’ impact on my childhood, is the seed to my Gestures piece.

Every day of my life I am hearing tens of thousands of words spoken to me, or I am overhearing words directed towards others. Throughout my life many of these statements have found a place in my memory banks. Talk to Me: Real Words from Real People is about those word groups that I remember.

Why is it that out of this endless bombardment of words that I remember these words? Why have these particular statements stuck with me? At a given time, these quotes may have struck me as profound, painful, funny, or just plain weird. These words have come out of the mouths of my family, friends, students, acquaintances, and complete strangers.

As for the figures you see in front of you making the statements, I like to think that they might be connected to those people painted on the sideshow banners from my youth. Freaks, perhaps, but their words are all real.

Robert Villamagna

Below are photos of the installation process and a few shots at the opening.

Laying out the figures.

The first figure goes up....

Installation progresses...

Onward and upward!

The wall is completed.

This big guy is giving a quote from a former boss I worked for at Weirton Steel, Tim Russell, also known as "Mad Dog".

A quote from a friend and former student, Melanie.

Another quote from a student.

A few more members of the "gang".

Even my wife, Chris, got quoted.

First people to view the work at the opening of Gestures.

My wife, Chris, and the ever dashing Mark Janicko at the opening of Gestures.

An untitled work by Larkin Werner in the Gestures show.

Our friends, the ever-pointing Lambros Tsuhlares and Paul Padgett came up from Wheeling for the opening. Paul wants you to believe that he is holding that purse for his girlfriend.

View from the fourth floor of the Mattress Factory Museum.