Word Balloons / John Peña




extruded foam, plaster, wood, paint

Artist Statement
For the Mattress Factory, I created a small and large three-dimensional word balloon. I fabricated the sculptures by layering and shaping sheets of extruded foam and coating it with plaster. Both of the sculptures were then elevated above the ground with a series of 2 x 4s.

I wanted to explore how the act of daily speech, which though mostly invisible, has the capacity to carry a significant intellectual and emotional weight. When manifested in the physical world, these words can be so light and yet so heavy that they need to be braced in order to remain in the world. As in life, there are times when I say things then find myself constructing elaborate bracing methods to support whatever I’ve said for fear that it will come crashing down.

In my studio practice, I typically make drawings, videos and small-scale sculptures. In one project titled Letters to the Ocean, I have sent a letter to the Pacific Ocean every day for the last ten years. I have thousands of returned letters with markings from the post office indicating that “No such place exists.” In my thirty-second video titled Outrunning Clouds, I attempt to race a cloud shadow and lose. My most recent project, Daily Geology, consists of a series of drawings I have made every day for the last five years in which I attempt to capture a memorable moment from my day. This project has allowed me to return to my great childhood love of drawing comics.

My work at the Mattress Factory feels like a direct extension of this impulse. I am taking a word balloon - a classic comic icon - and translating it into the physical world. I am now confronted with a whole new set of concerns and implications that fill me with excitement, confusion, panic, hunger and wonder.
About the Artist
John Peña is a multi-disciplinary artist who engages with the natural world to reveal the subtle relationships between humans and nature. Through his art, Peña tries to communicate with the environment around him, often documenting a memorable moment or encounter. Those experiences are then pieced together to create a larger story that evokes appreciation for the ordinary moments in daily life. John received his BFA in Painting from Central Washington University and his MFA from Carnegie Mellon University.
September 13, 2014 – May 31, 2015
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