Review: Under the Bed | Liz Parrish & Anna Kell

When: November 20th – December 19th, 2015
Where: Converge Gallery, 140 W 4th St, Williamsport, PA 17701
Who: Bucknell professor (and, like me, a University of Florida alum! Go Gators!) Anna Kell, and Liz Parrish

Converge Gallery in downtown Williamsport is currently exhibiting two local artists under the playful double entendre, Beneath the Mattress. Through re-appropriation, re-interpretation, and fantastical imagery, Anna Kell and Liz Parrish explore the implications of a phrase which considers the intersection between the real and the dream-like.

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Anna Kell, Shamokin Dam Quiltress, 2014, acrylic and oil on stained mattress fabric stretched on panel.

While riding her bike one day, Kell came across a soiled mattress, left to deteriorate by the side of a dumpster. “That looks like a painting,” she thought. Her passing observation eventually manifested into the pieces on display in Beneath the Mattress. Kell collects abandoned mattress fabrics, and embellishes their stained patterns with meticulously composed oil and acrylic overlays. She is intrigued by the stain, and its currency in our culture: stains are unpleasant accidents, meant to be politely ignored. But for Kell, these marks go beyond the simple consequences of our physiology; they are indicative of the ambient character of the bed itself, as a place where we are our most unscripted, where we (occasionally) lose control. These blemishes signify the intersection between nature and culture. According to Kell, “the stain is the character.” [emphasis mine] She seeks to re-imbibe these accidental marks with intrinsic value, to provoke anthropological thought about our connections to nature and history.


Liz Parrish uses painting to interpret her surroundings and her relationships, transforming the quotidian into fantastical compositions. There is an otherworldly, ethereal nature to her work, which instantly reminded me of “marginalia,” or the scribbles, comments, and even doodles in the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Liz confirmed that indeed those texts were a source of inspiration for her, as well as the occasional ill-tempered animal or sensationalist news stories. According to Parrish, one of her favorite artists, William Blake, “often points out the conflict between imagination and joyless reason in his writings.” She keeps this juxtaposition in mind when making her art, and that tension resonates in her pocket-sized portrayals of the human condition which never seem without an underlying, cheeky sense of humor.

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Liz Parrish, Hand, acrylic, watercolor, and ink on paper.

Though Kell and Parrish approach their work from slightly different mindsets, this aesthetic pairing succeeds in fostering an imaginative critique of the world in – and outside – our bedrooms. Go check it out! The show runs through December 19.

Some additional resources for your perusal:

  • Kell’s contemplation of this moment, where nature and culture intersect, evolved from earlier projects in which she explored how nature as a concept manifested in manufactured objects of mass consumption (particularly in objects for the interior, for the home). Read more about it here!
  • Some fun reads and resources for that medieval marginalia I was talking about here, here, and here.

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Gallery Locations

The Samek Gallery
3rd Floor, Elaine Langone Center
Bucknell University

The Downtown Gallery
416 Market Street
Lewisburg, PA 17837