A Second Home 2016

Dennis Maher
Dennis Maher: “A Second Home”
architectural salvage, construction materials, antique furnishings, toys, architectural models, video projection, audio

A Second Home transforms the Mattress Factory row house at 516 Sampsonia Way into a mysterious wonderland that cleaves intermingles and collages a house...


A Second Home transforms the Mattress Factory row house at 516 Sampsonia Way into a mysterious wonderland that cleaves, intermingles, and collages a house’s physical and metaphysical counterparts. Saturated with construction materials, furnishings, toys, architectural models, video projections, and audio elements, the resulting immersive environment—encompassing all three floors of the building—fosters the emergence of a radically interior world: one that dreams of memories that it has never had, conjures the places that it has always wanted to be, and draws its own magic out of the grains of the woodwork.

The fragments that compose the installation appear simultaneously as suspended in time and as continuously evolving, while the multitude of layers, assembled views, and variously scaled vignettes coalesce in ways that parallel the construction of the psyche. While synthesizing tools, devices, and artifacts from the past that is both known and unknown, A Second Home gives these components a new context in the present and projects them forward into the future.

Aspects of the house will continue to transform over the next two years, with projects realized in collaboration with the Mattress Factory Education Department and involving students of architecture from University of Buffalo and Carnegie Mellon University.

A Second Home features unique contributions from Miriam Devlin, Kate Joyce, Michael Koliner and Racheljoy Rodas, four Pittsburgh-area artists whose work engages the construction of environments; as well as special projects by Daniel Salomon and Cameron Neuhoff; furniture elements by the Society for the Advancement of Construction Related Arts (SACRA); and a soundscape composed for and from the house by Dubravka Bencic and Kevin Bednar. In addition, the house’s walls are enlivened and enriched by extraordinary objects culled from the private collections of the Mattress Factory’s original inhabitants, co-directors Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk.

Scott Bye has provided construction assistance for this project.

Special thanks to Barbara Luderowski, Michael Olijnyk, Owen Smith, Adam Welch, Nate Lorenzo, Kevin Clancy, Mattie Cannon, Anna-Lena Kempen, Chuck Schmidt, Elizabeth Saleh, the Mattress Factory Board of Directors, staff and museum members.

Generous support has been provided by ARAD, an Anonymous Donor, the Benter Foundation, Culture Ireland, Foster Charitable Trust, The Heinz Endowments, National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation

Artist Statement

The following was written and published in April 2023, in which Maher constructed the Dollhouse for Barbara, an homage to our founder and to the installation itself, on display within A Second Home for the last six weeks of the exhibition.


Dear Barbara—

Looking through the layers of time, I have imagined a giant dollhouse for you, a swan song for A Second Home. I wanted this piece to echo through your own collections of dollhouses, toys, and miniatures, and to house your hand tools that were bestowed to me, and that you used to make art and to repair antique dollhouses. It is a dollhouse for tinkering beyond the threshold.

I also wanted it to be built with other people.

Architecture students at CMU have fashioned many of its parts: dream-like stairs, rooftops, mantles, and other core house elements. The students worked with their woodshop technician to acquire new skills, and we all talked together about imaginary houses and making materials do things that they might not want to do.  The students shared their own stories of rebellious walls, fantastic environments that they aspired to and of which they feared, and those stories now have a place to dwell together.

It has been seven years since you and Michael visited my house and church in Buffalo and invited me to Pittsburgh to turn an old brick rowhouse into something we could give to the city for a period of time—a sieve for the memories of days long past, and a spark for places not yet seen.

Since the doors of A Second Home opened, I’ve heard many recollections from people who’ve visited. These recollections have struck me because they’ve spoken of special connections to buildings and objects, places and things strongly remembered, or forgotten about. I’ve heard childhood memories, tales of house keys, and attics where things go lost and are found again. These tales are with you, spirits among us.

My art has evolved over the last seven years to become as much about assembling people as it is about assembling things.  The dollhouse was also built with people who’ve touched Assembly House in Buffalo, where we work each day to create wondrous environments, and where people can learn how to build.

I will be moving all of my things out of the rowhouse soon so that new art can take place there.  I am leaving behind the dollhouse for you and for Pittsburgh. The old house has a lot of dust, and I will look forward to things getting uncovered and to pieces moving into their next forms.

I am grateful for the memories, especially for the ones that haven’t been mine.

With much love—for you, houses, art, the city of Pittsburgh, and people who build.


About the Artist

Dennis Maher is an artist, architect, educator and founder/director of FARGO HOUSE, Buffalo. His projects engage processes of disassembly and reconstitution through drawing, photography, collage and constructions. His Undone-Redone City project reformulates the remains of houses, conjuring a new urban core from assembled fragments. He has exhibited throughout the U.S. and was 2012-2013 Artist In Residence at Albright-Knox Art Gallery. He is Assistant Professor of Architecture, SUNY Buffalo.