Unseen Burchfield Penney Installation Design

Project Space

Concept Projection Test

Artist Statement

I grew up near the infamously toxic Love Canal in Niagara Falls. For years I have created art that examines the mutilation of our environment, and in turn ourselves.  In 2015 it became even more personal when my 40 year old brother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that eats away at your bones like osteoporosis. He lives in Niagara Falls on a block with house after house of families dealing with life threatening cancers and diseases.

This is not a coincidence.

With testing inside homes since 2012, it’s become clear that waste from Love Canal is still poisoning people's lives despite the government’s promises that it was cleaned up decades ago. In 1978 it was declared an environmental disaster by President Jimmy Carter and the Superfund Act was created.

40 years later there are now more than 1300 superfund sites in the United States with no clean-up dates scheduled, and we have a government that is quickly rolling back regulations on the chemical industry. Love Canal is only one of 256 known waste sites in Western New York, many of which most people don’t know exist.

At the heart of Unseen is an orchestration of real people’s voices revealing their stories of how they have been affected by toxic waste inside their own homes. These stories, all from the Niagara region, span across decades, revealing a chilling connection between the generations who have experienced this tragic situation. The Unseen voices describe what they see and smell, and share the physical and emotional burden that is their environment.  A middle class American neighborhood is created by small concrete houses forming two long rows, referencing the shape of the original Love Canal neighborhood. The houses suspended from the ceiling float just above the museum floor, carrying the visual and mental weight of the stories. The houses are illuminated with video projection of serene beauty of Niagara Falls. This contrast, with it’s glowing facade and dark underlying history, sits at the core of my life and my art.  

I dedicate this work to my brother, the families who have suffered from Love Canal, and to the 300 students who attended the Balmer Road School.


Teaser Video with Audio Sample

Use volume for full experience.

Installation Overhead Layout in Project Space

1/4" scale model with west wall of Project Space at top of image. 

Original House 1" Scale Concept Model


Detail of Concept Model

Unseen Project Space Materials and Additional Labor Budget - Sheet1.jpg

Additional Project Specifications

18 houses measuring 14" square at base, and 22" tall. Each house will weigh approximately 200lbs.

Each grid will hold 6 houses distributing the weight across all 3 grids.

Two rows of 9 houses hanging 4' apart.

Houses would all be hung 18" off the ground.

TBD 3 or 4 projectors needed.

The 3 projector design would include all three projectors pointing from above directly down over the houses. This would need the additional projector mounts stated in budget. 

4 projector idea would have the projectors hitting the houses from various angles across the room.

 Falls video projection on concrete houses.

Falls video projection on concrete houses.