Art installation at UB's Center for the Arts merges childhood memories

Harumo Sato and Amber Sliter revive childhood with P.P. Sheets


While Amber Sliter’s* 6-year-old brother roamed through her newest art installation, running below the sheets that dissect the room, drawing on the walls and playing with a microphone, Harumo Sato’s* family was preparing for their first visit to the United States to see her artwork – something they’ve never done.

The two artists reserved the Project Space in 155 CFA in November. They spent three weeks meticulously turning their sketches and models into a sprawling, interactive art installation made of colorful bed sheets, chicken wire, yarn, string and balloons. More than 20 people attended the reception on Thursday, Jan. 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. Most projects and installations in the Project Space are left up for a week but P.P. Sheet will remain open until Feb. 13.

A tree-shaped structure built from chicken wire, wrapped in bed sheets bisects the room, with other string, sheets and balloon-filled creations dividing the space. The walls are covered in drawing paper with boxes of crayons scattered throughout.

“We put up questions on the drawing papers to guide people,” said Sliter, a senior painting major. “They can draw whatever they want, or they can draw what we direct them to. These questions are easy enough for kids to understand, but for adults to appreciate and answer.”

The result is a space that makes it hard not to reminisce over the days of drawing on placemats with crayons and making fortresses out of pillows and bed sheets. The installation is built for change, interaction, creativity and breaking boundaries.

“We wanted to make this a bit of a lighter show. We wanted it to be super inviting,” Sliter said. “We haven’t done a piece where people could interact, and we wanted to experiment with trying to get people to really touch things and play with things. It’s kind of hard to get people to touch things.”

Sliter described the distance and boundaries people are used to in art exhibits and how P.P. Sheet was meant to break down those barriers. The sheets “bursting in between the space” are meant to encourage sitting on the floor and conversing. Sliter and Sato, a senior studio art major, instituted a no-shoes policy in the installation, making the experience less formal and more playful.

The artists, dressed in pajamas, gleefully moved throughout the installation, talking with their friends and thanking everyone for coming.

Olivia Frank, a junior sociology major, felt like she was on a playground.

“I like the exhibit, mostly because I think it represents childhood well,” Frank said. “There’s free range to color and design things and add to the piece. You kind of have to crawl through the structure in order to navigate around it, like you would on a playground.”

The installation was a playground for people of all ages.

One of the youngest people in attendance was Sliter’s young brother Parker. Sliter told Parker the exhibit was “for his birthday, too.”

Amber’s mother Paula also attended the event, chasing around her son and admiring her daughter’s work.

Initially, he hesitated to engage with the space. He seemed unsure about the environment around him. It didn’t take him long to start having fun.

“[He] just said to me, ‘I was nervous. I was scared and now I’m not and [I’m] having fun,’” Paula said. “You’d think a kid would go in and say, ‘Wow,’ but he was unsure about things.”

Over time the balloons will deflate, the pages on the walls will become filled with drawings and the space will change. Eventually, Sato and Sliter hope to take the installation to other venues, bringing along all the drawings and interactivity of past iterations to new spaces.

“We wanted to see how we could kind of play with people as well by just changing the setting of the room,” Slitter said. “With this installation you can really change the way people talk to each other and it makes a space where they’re invited to communicate.”

People drawing on the walls talked about what they were drawing and how the space made them feel, while others sat on the floor conversing about the start of the semester. The installation helped bridge the gap between childlike enthusiasm and maturity.

P.P. Sheet is as much about breaking boundaries, rekindling childhood and communication as it is about the deeper meanings of childhood and families.

“We pulled from our childhood when it came to decorating,” Sato said, holding a balloon air pump in hand. “I used to see performers make balloon animals and I thought it was so cool, but never understood how to make one. Now I can make them myself and show other people how fun they are.”

The netting draped like spider webs across the room is made using a knitting technique that Sato struggled to master as a child. Each element of the installation has a deeper meaning to Sato and Slitter; the balloons and netting are things Sato struggled with growing up.

Another part of the installation included two trees made to appear like one. They were built with Japanese mythology in mind.

“In Japanese mythology there is a story about two trees that are intertwined with one another like a couple,” Sato said. “They are connected by their roots and grow and move together. I used to hear this story in my childhood, and was inspired by it to make the tree structure.”

The exhibit is especially personal for Sato. Her family’s visit from Feb. 7-10 will be their first time in the United States and their first chance to see Sato’s work. She started making art four years ago, but never had any exhibits until she arrived in the United States a year and a half ago.

The reception was accompanied by music from Shawn Louis, known as Lesionread, an artist who graduated from UB with a bachelor’s in architecture. He placed four speakers throughout the room that played diverse sounds and samples, like people whispering.

Make sure you take off your shoes, leave your jackets and bags at the door, enter the Project Space and meander through two artists’ childhood memories transformed into art. And don’t forget to add your own memories to the space along the way.

*Full disclosure: Harumo Sato is currently a cartoonist for The Spectrum. Amber Sliter was a cartoonist for The Spectrum last semester.

Tori Roseman contributed reporting to this story.