mattress art

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The Mattress Art Story


W. K. Angel

W. Angel



  1. January Storm
  2. FoamTree
  3. MattressArt Totem
  4. Wired Foam Square
  5. MattressArt Constellation
  6. Foamscape
  7. Weave Side 1
  7. Weave Side 2
  8. Endurolator #1
  8. Endurolator #2
  9. Floating Pillow Homage







Mattress Art 2008
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W. Angel website








































Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website















Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website














Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website





















Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website















Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website









Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website
















Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website















Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website










































Mattress Art 2008
Larger Image Page

W. Angel website
















































Not long ago and not far away, it was necessary for me to procure a new bed.

Speaking on the phone m’ papa said, “Call Monterey Mattress— they’re in Sand City. The co-op was in Sand City.

“Dad, I know where Sand City is—where the co-op was.”


“Hi, I need a mattress. My dad said to call you.”
“Well, it is always good to listen to your dad…”
“Not always, but maybe this time…”

And the conversation continued.

I went in to the Sand City mattress showroom. It was a not quite ordinary mattress showroom. I had recently visited several and this was the only one I’d seen with a grand piano and art stuff on the walls.

Enter Mattress Guy

At the showroom I met the Mattress Guy. He was friendly and cheerfully performed an impressive intro-to-mattress-materials-and-construction lecture. It was fascinating to learn about the density of foam rubbers, synthetic or natural, and about base foundations of springs or wire. The conversation went from mattresses to art, music and a cup of coffee.

Mattress Guy asked what sort of art I did. I have a website so I can answer this question with, “I have a website.”

So, he called up the website and viewed the digital postage stamp sized images on his handheld device.

“Hey, would you be interested in hanging some of these at the showroom in August? My fiancé is involved with the
West End Festival...”

Enter Mattress Gal and Mattress Pal

In a short time Mattress Guy delivered my new bed conjoined with a brief studio visit. Mattress Gal contacted me and— jump to August 2007—Mattress Guy and Mattress Pal came out in a mattress truck to pick up some paintings.

The night before the West End Festival I joined Mattress Gal in the mattress showroom to hang paintings. Then I had a glass of wine at the Guy/Gal residence with Guy and Pal while Gal changed for the evening. We all went to the party, danced some and talked some. Later we had tea in the yard with the flowers and fire. I gave mattress Pal a ride home but didn’t go in for coffee. It was late and it was the first evening out I had had in what seemed like a long time.


I had hesitated when first asked about bringing in paintings. I had not been showing for a while for a variety of reasons. And it seemed an obscure place to hang paintings. But obscure is good. And, I enjoyed meeting Mattress Guy, Gal and Pal. They were nice to me— inviting me to participate in a community event as well as join them for outings, coffee, chitchat and hugs.

The West End Festival happened and the atmosphere in Sand City was local. It was in sync with memories of co-op days and the in-between time when artists started squatting in warehouses. The showroom was humming with jazz while people browsed and lounged around on mattresses. The highlight for English Teacher’s kid was the big fuzzy Mattress Dog.


Obscure is Good

Slowly a dynamic complex of thoughts relating mattress and art emerged.

I am a painter and I am also a whatever-media artist. That is, I will make art with whatever. I work in whatever media that attract me.

Paint is an endless subtle focused and complex journey. I work on paintings for long stretches of time. Working in other media functions as a counterpoint.

I have taken jaunts with multiple media. To name a few, I have had phases working in ceramics, textiles, web and I have an enduring fondness for hardware and bits of junk. All the work crosses paths conceptually, experientially and in ways of form.

In general art is an amalgamation of body, mind, material. At this junction the physical and conceptual links between mattress and art simmered tying sense to instance by obscure association.

Mattresses and Art

Both good mattresses and good art enhance quality of life.

Both are involved with our physical and mental presence in the world.

Both intimately engage us body and mind apart from daily activities.

Both can function as vessels that transport us to places of transformative states of comfort and sometimes discomfort.

Both interact with humans in rejuvenating and disturbing ways.


Summer ended and I expected heavy rain. Gentle rain tapping on the skylight is somewhat pleasant. But rain loses its charm when it pounds so loud that it wakes me up and/or prevents me from sleeping. It may be that since getting a new mattress was supposed to help my troubled sleep that the rain-on-skylight problem spawned a mattressesque association, or maybe my recent education in mattress materials instigated a foam solution to the noise.

Mattress Guy generously agreed to cut me a scrap of foam that I could shove into the skylight during storms to dampen the sound.

In general I like visiting warehouses and places where things are made. Factory warehouses are ready-made-installation art. They are cavernous space filled with piles of construction materials, bins of scraps, interesting tools and racks of made objects unobstructed by the glamour of market environments.

A scrap from a bin, a couple cuts, some hot glue and my custom-made skylight pillow manifested.

Picking up an end piece that was left over, I said, “I could make art out of this.”

Mattress guy answered, “Take it. Here, have more…”

In December I got sick. In January the rain fell hard. The trees fell, the power was gone for a week and I began messing around with foam scraps. Foam is a fleshy, malleable yet sturdy material. I cut, wired and stitched. Burning didn’t work. And while the lights were out at home, I was invited to a pleasant evening in Monterey with electricity and the Mattress folks at Mr. Movie’s house.

Mattress Art 2008

This is a somewhat chronological record of the progression of my mattress art series, although there were starts, stops and work on the pieces overlapped.

Mattress Art

My mattress art is a chance kind of art and as such it shares a heritage with other chance, found, abject and assembled art. It leans on a legacy of icons and ideas while resting in a timeless moment where consciousness and material sleep together.

A mattress is commonly hidden beneath bedclothes. And the raw mattress material— foam, wire and endurolator, is concealed inside the mattress.

Making art out of mattress material may be deconstructing or reconstructing or better yet, just constructing.

Just constructing may be of immeasurable value like being just a friend. Maybe it is about just being present.

Mattress Art just is.


1. January Storm
Dimensions: 20” x 8” x 6”

  • This foam was the end-piece left over from the skylight pillow.

  • My first thought had been to make it upright like a totem pole. But as the work progressed the sensation of holding and handling the foam object led to my rejection of the idea of securing it to a base as an upright. Instead I scraped, sanded and oiled a branch of Manzanita, culled from my firewood bin, into a stand to cradle the foam object.

Liberated firewood is also present in 2 & 3.

  • Spray of black altered the yellowish foam pigment.

  • I used wire, string and then embroidery thread to bind and twist the body of the foam.

  • Stitching, weaving, bits of paper and a couple beads embellished shape and surface.

I set pieces of firewood aside when they are too
interesting to burn. I suppose salvaging wood and other
stuff is a bad habit. But when I salvage junk it is with
creative intent, yeah that’s it— intent to make it into art.

Combining wood with foam reoccurs in the series in various ways. I suppose the contrast of the materials prompts this— soft and hard, synthetic and organic, dull and polished. And, a symbolic relationship to beds exists since art and mattresses are often set in wood bed frames.

Wood frames come into play later in 6-9.

Also, it is worth mentioning that stitching, weaving and making knots are among the most ancient methods of fiber arts and fabrication in general. A few years ago I wrote an article related to this.*


2. Foam Tree
Dimensions: 14” x 8” x 8”

  • I took a bread knife and slashed chunks of foam. I sewed pieces together. I was thinking of a star like form that would be suspended. Suspension comes back later with number 9.

  • I set the foam cluster aside unsure of how to proceed.

  • I stitched some hard-edged foam chunks together and painted surface areas with acrylic— this clump still hasn’t amounted to anything.

  • I embroidered on a sliced hunk of foam and— again it I set it aside. It wasn’t working for me. This came back in 6.

  • While I was ill and when the lights were out Cap showed up and caught me in the act of making mattress art. Later I liberated some decorating materials he was disposing of. Scrounging through the bits and pieces I found a solution for my sprig of foam and it became a tree.

  • The wood that became the base for Foam Tree was from the same era, tree, maybe the same branch as the wood used for Mattress Art Totem.

Foam Tree now belongs to the collection of Cap.


3. Mattress Art Totem
Dimensions: 15” x 8” x 6”

  • The wood I used in 2 & 3 had lived in my woodpile for years. Every time I came across it I set it aside until finally I took it out of the pile. This wood was kicking around since before I had any idea of combining it with foam. I think it was in the woodpile since before it was my woodpile. So, I guess I had known this wood for a long time, since before I started commuting to San Jose. Although I had a plan to work the wood eventually, I hadn’t been motivated to carve in wood for a long time. The relationship between foam and wood (symbolically related to beds at large) that began with the first piece of Mattress Art prompted me to revisit woodworking.

  • This particular piece of wood had particularly good growth wrinkles. It was so aged it was hard to see the colors and grain. I brought out my great-grandfathers fine-woodworking tools. Carved out the most rotted parts and worked with the malformations and discoloration it had achieved through the process of decay.

I learned about wood finishing when I had a studio in Maui
over fine wood furniture making co-operative.
I sometimes traded sanding and oiling for frames.

  • After a long process of carving, sanding and oiling I tucked foam into nooks and crevices.

  • I thought I would stand this piece on a foam-covered pedestal. I needed more material and made another visit to the mattress-making environment. I came away with more snippets like the quilted fabric that covers the mattresses and some multicolored rag stuff called endurolator. This attractive fabric is used inside the mattress between the springs and foam.

  • Covering the pedestal with foam didn’t look right after all. But, the endurolator was exactly right.


4. Wired Foam Square
Dimensions: 8” x 8”

  • I took the chunks of wood and foam that were originally slated for the base for the Mattress Totem and made this happy little square.

  • I realized while making #4 that it would be a fitting contribution to the museum’s miniatures fundraiser. I have thoughts on the form and function of miniature art stuff, but I won’t go into that now. I just want to state that the mini character of #4 was evident and indicated in referring to it as a “happy little square.” So, anyway, this year, I donated #4 to the local museum of art for their winter fundraiser.

  • I titled the piece with the URL that leads here. That is, It makes sense to me in so many ways. And, of course I construct and title my any-media work in the manner I paint pictures, as I see fit and as well as my talent permits.*

    When the show opened I saw the title had been changed to the uninformative word "untitled," and the media was written simply “mixed,” no mention of foam rubber, wire, embroidery thread or wood. Form my point of view, that of a creator or composer considering information and complexity a basis of my work, it just didn’t make sense.

    Standing with another member of the museum, I said, “That’s not right. I explained it on the form,” he handed me his pen.

    I suppose trying to correct the tag then and there was a spontaneous miniature act of mini disobedience. I was actually impressed that my tag alteration was noticed so promptly; there was a message on the machine the next day.

    In the message I was invited to call. I thought I could explain and correct the tag. But, when I called I was informed it had been an intentional decision. I thought– are they seriously deliberately banning reference to, connection to– Internet...?!!!

    The gradually intensifying voice confirmed yes,
    “we decided URL’s are not appropriate titles…”

    It had occurred to me someone might have been confused, made a mistake or taken a shortcut, but I hadn't anticipated censorship by a group “we.” It sounded like the “we” considered URL’s generically tacky and banal.

    What, like white stars stenciled on green or red?

    In short for now I will say, I tried to stay nice and explain the relevance and reason for my title. When the voice seemed to be upset I invited the museum to remove my piece from the show. The response to that was, pause, “There are already tickets in the box. Can’t you just give me a title?”

    I am guessing that those tickets, that represent cash for the institution, were placed in the box I had defaced, by people who recognized my name since the object itself is somewhat obscure, particularly stripped of its meaningfully composed title and media text element. So the “we” wanted me to cooperate with their decision to maintain authority over my title for my donation of my work branded with my name carrying at least the weight of a few $5.00 tickets worth of reputation.

    Although, I suppose it is possible that someone out there simply responded to the elegant, uncertain sweetness of the object or even maybe the pen scrawled attempted correction of the tag. One can dream.

    In any case, I realized that my wee opinion is mini enough that it did not budge their “we” in the direction of reason. I could not move the voice of the them towards appreciating what I call my art.

    I gave the voice Mattress Art #4 hoping to make it happy.

    Oh well, Veronese changed a title to appease the inquisitors. I suppose now I could title #4 Homage to Veronese.

    It had not been my intent to upset anyone. I used a title that made sense in so many ways. I could go on about historical material relating to concepts encompassing titles, signatures and contexts of art objects. I could launch an explanation of the significance of text such as http:// and .html existing in art of our era. Our era– an era that may very well retain the name Information Era. It may even turn out to be an Information Revolution, relating to civilization the way the Agricultural and Industrial eras did– and so on.

    Maybe I will formulate a more complete chapter describing and explaining the mini drama, and the maybe not so mini relevance, of my previously identified, “happy little square,” generating a mini collaborative multifaceted saga.

    Meanwhile, to appease my sense of guilty complicity at offering a changed title to placate the institution, on the 22nd of the month of November, 2008, I hereby add to #4 in the context of the Mattress Art Story, at the location of the forbidden title, accessible to the world and most likely only of interest to my mini fan club. The “we” can’t censor or control my website. Ain‘t that grand.

  • * It is written that, at a session of the Inquisition Tribunal in Venice, on Saturday, the 18th of the month of July, 1573, Paolo Veronese testified that he painted, “as I see fit and as well as my talent permits.” Due to his eloquent testimonial he was released and told to change a painting. Instead of changing the painting he changed its title.


5. Mattress Art Constellation
Dimensions: 9” x 11”

  • This piece of foam sat for awhile with just three beads and a few string lines. Someone said it looked like a constellation.

  • I thought I wanted to use more beads, there were a couple beads on January Storm, but beads like the spray paint can overpower the slight subtle sparkle of the mattress foam.

  • After I got the enhanced supply of mattress materials I wanted to do something with the quilted cover material. So I wrapped the constellation in the quilted material and wove gold thread into the piece.


6. Foamscape
Dimensions: 40” x 30”

  • After I got the enhanced supply of materials I had a variety of colors of foam.

  • I transfigured an old frame I had in the studio with sanding and black paint. I built the foam into the frame, altered some wood slats and went on to the stitching.

  • I attached the embroidered chunk of foam that had been set aside earlier, mentioned above in 2.

  • While making this one I slashed two fingers on a staple. It was not the only occurrence of minor injury but was the bloodiest to date for this series. However, I did mange not to drip on the front of the foam.


7. Weave: Woven Endurolator - side #1 & side #2
Dimensions: 12” x 10”

  • Endurolator, the multi-colored-rag-stuff used inside the mattress between the springs and foam.

When I began writing this story
I had to ask Mattress Guy what this stuff is called.

  • Stitching, tying, twisting, knotting and weaving had been methods for mattress art from the start.

  • I used a sturdy frames to hold the weave of fabric and wires.
Along the way I decided to make the piece reversible. So on one side the woven endurolator is dominant and wrapped over the sides of the frame. On the reverse foam is sunk inside the endurolator wrapped frame perimeter.


8. Endurolator Minimalism # 1 & #2
Dimensions: 12” x 14” & 12” x 12”

  • The endurolator is just too cool all on its own. So, I got minimal, cleaned and oiled some old wood frames and there you have it.


9. Floating Silver Pillow Homage
Dimensions: about 24’” x 12” x 10”

  • Number 9.

  • There are 9 floating (or wired) silver (or grayish) pillows.

  • Thinking— who has used mattress material for art making? Beds, yes but mattress material? The closest I could think of was Andy Warhol’s floating silver pillows.

  • This floating pillow thought combined with a suspension idea leftover from 2 and this interactive mobile was the result.


10. The Mattress Art Story

  • Percolating all along, I started writing the Mattress Art Story in June and edited in August 2008.


Beds In Art

The bed is an icon of private space separate from or related to public space. Beds show up in paintings. Beds are set up in installations.

Bed as symbol relates to intimate identity. The object, image and semiotic of bed often suggests aspects of personal identity and a human orientation. Or, maybe a bed is a clean way to represent bodily functions.

  • Beds exist in ancient funerary art in a variety of forms.

  • Van Eyck painted Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife beside a bed in 1434. The bed, the reflection in a mirror, the text on a wall— symbols of private identity, concealment, mystery and secrets hidden in plain sight.

  • Titian brought Giorgione’s “Venus” inside and spread her out on a bed. Jump about 400 years and Manet’s wide-awake Olympia stares at us from a similar reclining position, scandalously daring us to get a clue.

  • Delecroix surrounded Sardanapalus with luscious murder on and around a glorious bed while Ingre placed his lovely grotesque distortion of woman, his Grand Odalisque, on a silky sexy bed.

  • In Fuseli’s Nightmare a monster sits on the chest of a limp woman draped over a draped bed. In contrast Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy has a lion sniffing at her, she has a pillow but no bed.

  • Van Gogh painted his empty bed. Kahlo painted in her bed.

  • Recently, at the Art Center in Pacific Grove and the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, a Corser installation had a bed strewn with shards of a broken mirror.


Conception, birth, illness and death often happen in beds.

Beds hold bodies in pleasure and play, and in pain and despair.

Beds are places of dreams and nightmares.

A bed is a bed is a bed.

A mattress is a mattress.

Mattress Art just is.



* DiFi: Digital and Fiber, by Wendy Angel, published in the SWITCH new media journal, issue 16 May 15 2001


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