Alanna Heiss and the Institute for Art and Urban Resources purchased PS1, an abandoned school building from NYC for a dollar. When it reopened in 1976, artists were invited to transform the building’s spaces, stairwells, bathrooms and classrooms.
In 1979, PS1 invited me to transform a former classroom.
Unheard of today. I was given free reign and three weeks to do whatever I wanted in room 206.
I made sculptures out of lace, doilies, and acrylic paint which resembled domestic furnishings, sofa chairs, rugs, screens and curtains which I hung in the drafty windows.
“In My Room,” the first of many installations, prefigured my later Public Art, also inspired by domesticity, benches, chandeliers, antimacassars sometimes painted on jersey barriers, along highways or strung in trees.
As one critic put it: “No sternly minimal intellectual pretensions here.” (Amei Wallach, Newsday)
I painted the floor pink and tiled it with tin squares, adding gel-thickened squiggles as a comment on the minimalist fashion of the day.
The blackboard became a “quilt.” Windows appeared on the walls, complete with tables and views.
My approach was unapologetically female and domestic, I embraced the opportunity armed with women’s work, lace, doilies and gel-thickened paint. These same materials continue to inform and inspire me today.
Although I was exhausted and sick by the opening (there was no heat in the building), my work found attention for the first time.
Well-known collectors Don & Mera Rubell bought two pieces, and unexpectedly, I found myself fielding numerous gallery and exhibition offers.
Robert Freidus became my dealer and my artwork was published (another first) in Ornamentalism by Robert Jensen & Patricia Conway, 1982. This book placed my work in a context that would be revisited 40 years later in another exhibit and book, Pattern, Crime & Decoration (2021).
Like magic, now 41 years later, unseen installation photos were published for the first time by MOMA/PS1.
It is so thrilling to see these black and white prints, and to remember those salad days as a young artist.
What a gift!