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After School

Teen Art Cooperative
Our Mission

The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.

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Luke Stettner

State of the Sky

This play is a reflection on the (im)possibility of accepting diversity and the other. The fragmented body of the neoplasm—the fruit of unstable conditions—overcomes barriers, loves and denies itself and others, wanders around, forgetting its profession. It frequently and with pleasure divides, goes through dangerous palpation, questions the possibility of contact with the experience of the other. Poorly brought up but very successful, it invites us to a trans-species transition.

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At the heart of State of the Sky is the spirit of artistic partnership, shared inquiry, and experimental dialogue. State of the Sky is the culmination of Stettner’s ongoing work with over ten creative collaborators, including Ohio-based artists Calista Lyon, Michael Stickrod and Suzanne Silver. Over the last five years, Stettner has transitioned from a solitary studio practice to a dynamic synergy with other artists, fabricators, scientists, and scholars; State of the Sky, which defies conventional notions of group or solo exhibition, reflects that shift. The collaborators here are other artists, social scientists, musicians, landscape architects, and poets – each brings their expertise, craft, and unique perspective to the project, allowing for multiple voices to resonate around common themes. In doing so, Stettner has yielded a process that is truly open, unpredictable, generative, and democratic. 

Much of State of the Sky examines Western Pennsylvania's heritage of environmental activism. From the chronicles of Samuel Pierpont Langley, which record the daily conditions of Pittsburgh’s skies in the late 19th century, to the extensive display of various University of Pittsburgh archival collections, the installation invites attendees to examine Pittsburgh’s long fight for environmental justice. State of the Sky reflects on the crucial shifts in atmospheric conditions due to industrialization and pays homage to the individuals and organizations that have, and continue to, champion the health of our skies and communities.  

Time, a construct as constant as it is intangible, is a key component of this exhibition. Stettner, alongside Calista Lyon, delves into the role the Alleghany Observatory played in the national standardization of time. This change in timekeeping paved the way for large-scale industrialization which in turn wreaked havoc on the environment (among other things, standardized time was “sold” to the Pennsylvania Railroad). Drawing from the Allegheny Observatory collection – including records of the sky, telescopic technology, and their time service – Stettner and his collaborators underscore our capture of natural resources as “free” and extractable. Notably, the Allegheny Observatory was once located near to the site of this installation but was forced to relocate to higher ground toward the end of the 19th century to escape the “smoke city” and better see the stars. 

The installation will evolve over its two-year exhibition run, mirroring the ever-changing sky it represents. A darkroom that utilizes the sun through a hole cut into the roof, at once an experimental lab and a place for community engagement, stands as a symbol and site for ongoing creation and transformation. Archival materials and borrowed items, together with public workshops, fuel an active process where observation becomes a powerful mode of discovery. As the exhibition unfolds, so too will the artworks, marking the passage of time and reflecting the shifts, not only in the natural world, but in the collective consciousness of its participants. 

State of the Sky does not merely sit within the walls of the Mattress Factory—it is a continuation of the narrative of Allegheny City. The history of the observatory and its ever-increasing challenge to see above the industrial fog is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made in the name of progress. In drawing Pittsburgh’s past into its present, Stettner and his collaborators create a dialogue that spans centuries, questioning and celebrating the intricate relationship between human endeavor and the environment. 

State of the Sky collaborators: Mac Carbonell, Chris Domenick, Michelle Franco, Nicholas Kawa, Calista Lyon, Bryan Ortiz, Suzanne Silver, Ed Steck, and Michael Stickrod. Other artists will be invited to collaborate with Stettner throughout the exhibition. Calista Lyon and Luke Stettner extend their thanks to Miriam Meislik and the Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System.  

The following collections from the University of Pittsburgh Library System are featured in the exhibition: 

  • Allegheny County, Pa. Health Department, Bureau of Air Pollution Control Records 
  • Allegheny Observatory Collection 
  • Fred Wright Papers 
  • Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) Records 
  • Harold Corsini Photograph Collection 
  • Ken Kobus Photograph Collection 
  • Michelle Madoff Papers 
  • Pittsburgh City Photographer Collection 
  • Smoke Investigation Activities of the Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh, Pa. Research Records 
  • Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection 
  • UE Research on Labor Issues 
  • United States Steel Corporation Duquesne Works Industrial Relations Department Records 
  • William J. Gaughan Collection 


November 17, 2023 - January 4, 2026


516 Sampsonia


2nd and 3rd floors accessible only by stairs, 3rd floor is intentionally dark

Image by Tom Little, courtesy of Mattress Factory


Give artists the time, space and resources to create remarkable works of art that help us see our world in new ways.

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