Art’s Deepening Place: A Reflection on Sarah Oppenheimer’s “610-3356”

Image from The Mattress Factory Art Museum Website on

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

Leonardo da Vinci

My thanks to Jack Warner, former colleague and cooperating teacher, for introducing me to one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems, The Mattress Factory Art Museum. Since that initial visit almost twenty years ago, I’ve returned to the museum many times both with students and on my own. On one of my more recent visits with a colleague, I engaged in the suggested creative writing exercises with the students, producing a series of reflections on the installation art pieces that are part of the museum’s permanent collection.

In flipping through my older works this afternoon, I came upon my poetic response to Sarah Oppenheimer’s 610-3356. I know that many people write off modern art as garbage when compared to the masters of the Renaissance or the Impressionists. I, too, have been far more of a skeptic of modern art than a champion of the art form. However, some pieces, like this one, do take me beyond myself and enable me to deepen. Others leave me scratching my head or seriously questioning the sanity of those who have the authority to label something as art (watch the Blue Man Group’s shot at what qualifies as art – also a HUGE thanks to Jack Warner for that introduction!)

Though this work isn’t a painting, as da Vinci references above, it is an invitation to see with new eyes. In exploring this work of art from all three levels of visibility at the museum, I’m reminded again of the importance of perspective. Rather than write off this “hole in the floor” as just another example of the banality of modern art, embrace the journey we’re being offered to deepen and be sure to explore The Mattress Factory link above to see all the different views I reference in the poem.

610-3356: “Window on the Floor”

A poetic response to the work of Sarah Oppenheimer at The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, PA
Vincent H. Anastasi 2013

View from the Third Floor

This opening obliges me
to navigate the room –
walls blurring in peripheral vision,
the eyepiece reversed –
transforming kaleidoscopic,
I, the rotating lens,
circling like a falcon
the hole that splits:
this aircraft wing, this slide, this portal, this
“window on the floor”
that draws me from within to without
compelled, almost
to dive
to plummet
to soar
coaxing me more
and more
from this room:
the frosted windows, white walls, varnished floors –
myself –
to trip the ledge
following diverging lines
to open spaces

View from the Second Floor

I want to get in,
pierce the wooden shaft that
disturbs this room
this plywood white elephant
to rise
to fall
to crawl around a bit within
to see with strange green eyes,
mold wings…

View from the Street

And outside
gazing in the aperture
so small
budding from this expanse of wall
I am reminded of
narrow cells
I’ve haunted

2 thoughts on “Art’s Deepening Place: A Reflection on Sarah Oppenheimer’s “610-3356”

  1. Absolutely! I always come back to C. S. Lewis’s “An Experiment in Criticism.” As he says in the final chapter, literature is a series of doors or windows that allow us to get out of ourselves and into other worlds, to experience things we could never experience on our own and, ideally, see with a greater heart of compassion.


  2. So glad that you’re keeping the dream alive! I think your poem could be about AP too because the literature (and art) offers so many shifting perspectives.

    Liked by 1 person

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