I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania during the waning years of America’s post-war industrial paradigm. Shortly after my birth the steel mills closed and the coal industry consolidated. This region braced for an economic winter from which many communities have yet to emerge. As both artist and curator, my research continually returns to notions of growth and decline relating to technology and the human experience. Projects inspired by this research chronicle the pursuit of progress and its effect on all facets of society, ranging from industry and community to science and entertainment. Iconography representing the abundance and promise of industrial modernism is reminiscent of a time when American optimism was specifically manifested in large-scale construction and the built environment.

As a child of the 1980s I developed romantic notions of America’s industrial past typified for me, by the ruins of a 19th century tannery located near my family cabin on the Clarion River in Elk County Pennsylvania. Now hidden amongst the dense overgrowth, these ruins were the backdrops for my childhood reveries. Like an effigy to the impermanence of industrial progress, rectangular mounds of dirt and moss supplant the solid railroad ties that once transported hides to and from that tannery. I remember searching with my siblings for the gnarled iron spikes still embedded in those mounds.


Chris McGinnis is an artist, curator and educator working in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, with over ten solo exhibitions and over 40 group exhibitions in recent years. He has created projects for the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and The Rivers of Steel Heritage Area. He is co-founder of the Pittsburgh-based Alloy Arts Organization and regularly attends national and international artist-in-residence programs. His work has been published in the National Studio Visit Magazine, European Art Magazine, The MFA Now catalog, Manifest’s International Painting Annual as well as numerous local and university publications including Pittsburgh’s Post Gazette and The Tribune Review. Chris has worked for institutions across the country including Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Arizona. He is currently Assistant Professor of Art at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Director of the University’s Kipp Gallery.