To begin talking about Amber Cobb’s work, one must really take a moment to pause and think. Specifically, think about a bed: your bed, your childhood bed, a lover’s bed, a motel bed, a stranger’s bed. Then there’s Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed. Tracy Emin’s My Bed. The mattresses: box-spring, pillow-top, twin, queen, king. On a frame, on the floor, in a couch. But how we psychologically interpret beds in western society, and in our personal memories, is the way that Colorado-based artist Amber Cobb approaches the bed, or the mattress in particular.
The artist strips the bed of any vestige of comfort or pleasure. As I Adapt, a cleverly ironic piece, appears at first like any old mattress. Displayed bare in an open room, it suggests the experience of standing in a mattress company show room where one is always encouraged to drop down onto beds and bounce around, assessing comfort. But As I Adapt is in fact made of concrete and metal, therefore making it, despite appearances, exceptionally uncomfortable.
Bruises on the Inside is a particularly complicated piece, again addressing pain, but from a different angle. From one end of the stained child’s mattress is a protrusion, the origin or cause of which is uncertain by simply looking at it. A strong argument for always reading the titles and materials used, in Cobb’s work this information can change the scenario quite drastically. A sense of the unknown builds on the anxiety, challenging us to think up–or deny–the possibilities. The title implies a dark history kept just beneath the surface, just like the ominous lump in the mattress (which the artist has created with stuffed animals, which given the right context, can be creepy indeed). Not only does this piece recall childhood visions of monsters, but the stuffed animals, meant to comfort, instead stir unease. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
Skin of 1000 Lovers takes a rubber mold of the surface of a mattress, divulging a private history of the mattress and its inhabitants. Suspended on the wall it becomes an emblem of an accumulated past, but not so much a trophy as a crucifixion. Just Because its Wet Doesn’t Mean it Likes it, perhaps my favorite piece included on Cobb’s website, is an incredible, blunt statement about sexual consent. It strongly suggests a woman’s sexual arousal, yet the artist tempers the assumption that this is necessarily a good or pleasant thing, or that it is an invitation.
Cobb’s more recent works, still dedicated to the mattress as a surface, begin to assess the possibilities of texture and pattern that lean toward abstraction, including the lovely collaboration done with artist Laura Shill.
Amber Cobb earned an MFA in sculpture from the University of Colorado at Boulder and currently lives and works in the Denver area. See more of her work and find more information at amberdawncobb.com.