Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Just before local museums closed in mid-March, Andrea Stanislav ran a one-day cultural marathon of Pittsburgh, touring Carnegie museums of art and natural history in Oakland, the Heinz History Center in the Strip District and The Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., artist and avid runner came to do research for an art installation at the Mattress Factory art museum on the North Side. As the new coronavirus began forcing closures, Ms. Stanislav was planning to return home — until she called friends in New York City.
“You’re thinking of coming here?” they asked. “Are you crazy? Everybody’s leaving.”
Instead of returning to her house in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, Ms. Stanislav stayed in a North Side apartment the Mattress Factory uses for artists in residence. She’s not sorry.
“Everyone is so polite and people quickly walk to the other side of the street. There’s a real mindfulness of the pandemic,” she said, calling the North Side “a utopic bubble.”
The artist said the city’s distinctive architecture, curving rivers and sloping hills make Pittsburgh “so kaleidoscopic on some level. This became a real oasis.”
Ms. Stanislav first visited the Mattress Factory in the 1990s while studying sculpture in Alfred University’s graduate program in upstate New York. She was mesmerized by the work of James Turrell and Yayoi Kusama. One of her mentors, Buzz Spector, also showed his work at the Mattress Factory and was thrilled to learn she would exhibit there.
“It’s always been an institution that I’ve regarded highly,” she said.
Ms. Stanislav was one of five artists chosen to show new artwork here. It could happen later this year or next spring; no date has been set.
Her unplanned 11-week stay may give her time to visit Duquesne University’s archives and look at costumes from the Tamburitzan ensemble collection. The artist, who has choreographed what she calls “dance parades” in St. Petersburg, Russia, hopes to collaborate with the dance troupe on an outdoor event in the spring.
She’s made some personal discoveries, too. On Instagram, she reconnected with Dawn Aveline, an archivist and librarian who worked in Los Angeles before recently moving to Pittsburgh.
“She’s a DIY fashion designer as well,” Ms. Stanislav said. “She makes clothes and jewelry. We were very close friends in Chicago and stayed in touch. The first weekend I was here she saw my photographs of bridges.”
Every day, she walks to Allegheny Commons with her Basenji, an African hunting dog named C.Y. for Chuck Yeager, the famed test pilot. She also runs along the Allegheny River, from the North Side to the 40th Street Bridge.
The runs are an antidote to faculty meetings on Zoom with colleagues at Indiana University in Bloomington, where she is associate professor of sculpture at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design.
Through a mutual friend, she met Joe Bielecki, a lawyer who took her on a grocery trip to the Giant Eagle at The Waterfront and Enrico Biscotti in the Strip District.
“He was really my native guide to interesting places,” Ms. Stanislav said, adding that Mr. Bielicki’s knowledge of art, Slavic languages and folklore made him an ideal companion.
Pittsburgh’s deep well of Slavic culture will inform the work she does here. Ms. Stanislav’s paternal grandparents lived in Pilsen, a largely Czech and Slovak neighborhood in Chicago. Although she grew up in the suburb of La Grange, she savored many Sunday dinners of duck, dumplings, sauerkraut and strudel at her grandparents’ home, where Czech was spoken. Her paternal grandmother gave her a vodyanoy doll and told her haunting stories about it.
“I have not been able to find the origin of this doll. I’ve asked toy collectors online. I showed it to Joe. The doll does not have a label. It came from the Czech Republic,” the artist said.
A vodyanoy is a “a swamp creature ... that hangs out in ponds and lures young maidens into the water and kills them .... Maybe she was telling me to be very careful of young men,” Ms. Stanislav said.
The artist, who calls herself a “research nerd,” draws inspiration from local archives plus a place’s natural and social histories. She is fascinated by “how the city grew up from Fort Pitt. My work digs into more complicated histories of a place.” In her art installations, Ms. Stanislav also uses sound, video and sculpture.
For the public event, Ms. Stanislav hopes to collaborate with the Tamburitzans, a composer and a musician. She wants the work to be kinetic, “a dance fantasia of sorts” that is a “celebration of coming out of the COVID-19 virus.”
Conceptually, she wants to combine the public event with her exhibition at the Mattress Factory.
“There are a number of moving pieces right now. The board of the Mattress Factory is helping me connect to some of the public art groups. There’s great interest and enthusiasm.”
The artist also hopes to show her video “Nightmare” on a LED screen that would be positioned aboard a barge floating on the Ohio River. The video event would give the impression of a white horse running upon the river’s surface.
“You have all of these vistas and vantage points to view it. It happens at night. The contrast of the video is so high that it looks like an illusion.”