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What if you could easily see the invisible particles in the air you breathe?


It can happen through a visual arts exhibition opening next month in conjunction with the 2014 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.


From June 6-13, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will present the visual art exhibition Portraits of Air: Pittsburgh by Detroit-based artist Susan Goethel Campbell whose work explores the intersection of nature, culture and engineered environments. Crowd-sourced during the 2013 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, this installation is the culmination of a yearlong project that will be on display at the Trust’s 709 Penn Gallery in partnership with the Breathe Project.



It will show the results of nearly 100 spun-glass air filters placed both inside and outside of homes and workplaces throughout the Pittsburgh region over the past year and later returned to the artist. Some filters remained completely white, while others are very discolored from collecting particulate matter from the air. Incorporating photography, sound and the air filters, Campbell has created a visual document of the air we breathe and invites people to think about air quality in the Pittsburgh region.


“The main goal of this project is to bring awareness to the concept of air,” she says. “It moves from the local to the global and is necessary to sustain life. “My hope is that people will see themselves in this project and not necessarily that air is dirty or polluted. What I am most interested in are the [filters’] placements and how these individual sites helped to create a broad portrait of air.”


The installation will also feature a sound work titled “Air Moves,” which is a poetic, narrative documentation of the Pittsburgh filter locations, as well as sites around the world where Campbell asked people to place air filters. In addition, a series of woodblock prints based on aerial views of Pittsburgh and other cities in the United States will be on view.


Portraits of Air is an ongoing, unscientific project that focuses on the movement and quality of air around the world. Campbell began the project in 2009 with the distribution of 24 8X10 air filters to people in seven countries. Each participant in the project was asked to place the filter in a location of their choosing so it could collect particulates from the atmosphere.

Comments (2)

  1. Angelo Taranto says:

    This is a great idea. Where will the exhibit be?

    • charles says:

      Thanks! It will be at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 709 Penn Gallery at 709 Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.

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