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The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.

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Naomi Chambers

Black Community Survival Conference Tea Party Ice Cream Social Moonlit Cinema

This play is a reflection on the (im)possibility of accepting diversity and the other. The fragmented body of the neoplasm—the fruit of unstable conditions—overcomes barriers, loves and denies itself and others, wanders around, forgetting its profession. It frequently and with pleasure divides, goes through dangerous palpation, questions the possibility of contact with the experience of the other. Poorly brought up but very successful, it invites us to a trans-species transition.

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Materials: Embellished household items, painting, polymer ice cream scoops, stickers, pillows and cushions, animation projected on fabric, inflatable sign

From the bright blue sky on one side of the room to the star-filled night time sky on the other, entering Naomi Chambers’ installation is like walking into a wonderland. Taking the 1972 Black Panthers Black Community Survival Conference as the starting point, her installation presents a holistic view of not just what it means to survive, but what it means to thrive and achieve self-actualization for the Black community.

Chambers brings the Panthers’ concept of radical inter-communalism into the 1414 Annex through her creation of stations for the community, including a coffee stop, an outdoor tea party, a moonlit cinema (with animation produced by the artist), and an ice cream social, with handmade polymer ice cream scoops in a variety of flavors.  Chambers’ painted homage to Harriet Tubman fills the wall and is embellished with teddy bears, toys, and stickers. Her work asks us to think about the importance of love, light, food, and play for the health and self-actualization of the community. Chambers invites viewers to be a part of the process (and the community created in her installation) by adding more stickers.

Artist Statement

I am staging an event that draws from the Black Panther Party’s Black Community Survival Conferences of the 1970s. The installation is a continuation of my hack of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where I think about what Black people in America need to reach self-actualization. I am visiting the work of heroes from our legacy of self-determination, like Huey P. Newton and Harriet Tubman to do this. I began by collecting teddy bear imagery and teacups and rainbows as supports for a family living through hard times. The objects here imagine what we need to survive and thrive: love, light, and teddy bears (soft bodies), food (nourishment), coffee (stay woke) and tea (stay informed) and play.




1414 Monterey, 1st Floor

About The Artist

Naomi Chambers is a painter and sculptor born in Pittsburgh in 1987. She graduated with a double degree from the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Studio Arts and Marketing in 2009. In 2017, she and her husband worked with a collective of artists to open FlowerHouse, a community art studio and creative space in Wilkinsburg where they offer workshops for the predominantly Black community. In 2018, she had her first solo exhibition, Communal Futures at an arts institution, August Wilson Center: African American Cultural Center. She is currently Community Liaison with Alisha Wormsley’s Sibyls Shrine, a residency for creative mamas.


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