Losing One’s Mind: A Scene Report from Art All Night 2023

dollhouse covered with large collection of decorations
Sometimes a picture may be worth even more than a thousand words. “I Lost My Mind” (detail) by Erin Harper was included in Art All Night 2023

There will be time to murder and create. The words are painted and collaged onto a set of five entrance steps to an elaborately over-the-top front porch. The three-story, Victorian-style dollhouse is covered with a blitzkrieg of … everything. Small toys, buttons, shells, bottle caps, and other found objects have been hot-glued to its surfaces along with a loose collage of magazine cuttings, product packaging, and patterned prints. The decoration is not limited to the exterior of the house. No, the walls and floor of each interior room are decked-out, each in a different over-the-top theme.

The art piece, titled I Lost My Mind, is by Erin Harper. One hopes Ms. Harper was speaking metaphorically of both the losing of minds and murder, but she certainly found time to create. It was perhaps the most striking work at last weekend’s Art All Night, this year again at 31st Street Studios in the Strip District.

dollhouse covered with large collection of decorations
If you have to make time for just one … “I Lost My Mind,” Erin Harper (detail)

Let’s get something straight: there were boobs—lots of them—wangs too. And yes, there was at least one hoo-ha. In addition to the requisite nudes and soft-porn, other Art All Night perennial genres included sports art, paint-splattered baby dolls, skip-a-little-rope, smoke-a-little-dope doobie visions, skulls, skeletons, and zombies, visual puns, and lots and lots of renditions of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline. This being the first Art All Night since the Dobbs decision came down, women’s rights and body autonomy was an important topical issue.

painting of three lizard people with human in net bag
The Sleestack came back. “Slimy,” Don Strange

These specialties are not the sum of the artwork included at Art All Night. Despite the focus of this piece, know that Art All Night also features landscapes in oil, portrait paintings, photography, ceramics, elaborate sculpture, delicate craft, terrific kids art, and all the rest. The event, of course, is so much more than paintings hung on plywood walls—the mass of people out-and-about, kids going nuts on cardboard, performance art, the drum circle under the 31st Street Bridge.

But it is this collision of the sublime, along with the ridiculous and the mundane that makes Art All Night so special. And what is most thrilling is that these individual bizarre expressions—created as jokes or under the influence of hallucinogens or mental health issues as they may—have an outlet for public exhibition.

crude painting of woman in clown makeup and rainbow outfit
What the heck, man? “Brittany in a Sketchy Atlantic City Hotel,” Joseph Heckmann

I don’t know if there’s a gallery out there that would show Joseph Heckmann’s Brittany in a Sketchy Atlantic City Hotel, but I’m sure glad I got to see it. What was Brittany doing in Atlantic City and why is she dressed like a clown headed to aerobics? Does she really have a giant tattoo of another clown on her left leg? I want answers, sure, but Heckmann’s acrylic painting gives us that great gift of wonder—not just about the subject of the artwork, but about its creator too.

painting of creature with two faces and Mickey Mouse ears holding both a skull and a rainbow
A whole different rainbow connection. “Death, Division, and the Iconography of Hope,” Adam Greene

That is Art All Night’s great gift to the world—both to its event goers and its art contributors. It continues, 26 year on, to be a safe space of free expression for every kind of any person to do what they want to do and share it with everyone else. Hats off, yet again, to the fantastic crew that manages to pull this genie out of a hat year after year.

painting of creature with fish body and human legs
If chickens can have fingers, fish can have legs … and perform on a Vaudeville stage. “Legs,” Casey Welsby
psychedelic painting with lava flow, monsters, disembodied eyeballs, and an enormous cigarette
Rope was skipped here. “Path to Pacaya,” Megan D’Jovin
painting of downtown Pittsburgh as fantasy land
Black and gold and emerald green. “OZ Pgh,” Tara Lee Fedonni
painting of nun with a popsicle
Nun havin’ fun. “Popsicle Nun,” Leah O’Shea
painting of crucified nun with Bible verses
A nun not havin’ so much fun. “The Scorned Nun,” Faith M.
artwork made from colored moss
You moss remember this. “I’ve Got You Covered,” Angie Monk
crude painting of Tom Brady in suit with devil horns and wings
Tom Brady: “known cheater,” artistic muse. “GOAT 666,” The Artiste Reno
crude painting of creature on 2x4 board
Baby on board. untitled, Eileen Cousins
painting of muppet character Bert with alien-like figure, both bleeding
Ernie’s got a brand new bag. “Existence is Futile,” John Rogers
artwork of blue jeans under glass with message "In case of emergency, break glass"
Big pants to fill. “In Case of Emergency Break Glass,” Taylor Atkins
artwork of two women dancing with robots
Robot dance party. Unknown (journalism fail!)
artwork of bloody bathroom sink and mirror as scene of apparent suicide
Red wave. “The Wave Returns to the Ocean,” Jenna McDermot
mixed media painting/assemblage of blue-haired girl looking like a zombie
Zombified and skeletized. “Speechless,” Brenda Vernon
painting of woman as half live human, half skeleton
Flesh and bones. untitled, Lindsay Tate
painting of dumpster on fire
Fire in the hole. “It’s Fine,” Crystal Berry
painting of busy street scene with skeletons in foreground
Down at the tube station at Midnight. “Wood Street T Station,” Brendan Donovan

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