Allegheny Valley Inspires Undergraduate Research Project

Posted on August 19, 2019

Two people setting up tabletop deer stands on a pedestal in a gallery

The black shirts of siblings Samuel and Isabel Horgan contrast the stark, white walled critique space in the basement of Doherty Hall. Their multimedia installation “Down in the Valley, Up and Out of the Furnace: Art in Post Industrial Western Pa.” adorns the room.

The pair focused on cultural nuances of the Allegheny Valley, such as whitetail deer hunting and specific agricultural tendencies. The exhibit includes a series of miniature scale sculptures of tree stands, a full-size abstract stand, videos, animation and information about their processes. They conducted research for their project by finding and photographing tree stands and the environment around them.

The project utilizes both their talents collaboratively. The sculpture pieces created by Samuel Horgan integrate videos shot by Isabel Horgan.

Isabel Horgan, a sophomore studying art in Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts, knew she wanted to attend CMU, and applied for early decision.

“Art became the plan early on,” Isabel Horgan said. “We spent the majority of our life living on a 200-acre farm. There’s no one else to hang out with, except yourself. There was this constant need to create in order to pass the time. I felt this primal need to make something with my hands.”

Samuel Horgan is also an art major, entering his junior year. He agrees that their Pennsylvania upbringing is the foundation of their work.

“Many students come to Carnegie Mellon and leave Pennsylvania after graduating, but I’m not going anywhere,” Samuel Horgan said. “I’m not interested in moving beyond the resources, the stories, the narratives and the ideas that the area presents.”

The Horgans each received a $3,500 CMU Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to pursue their project, under the guidance of Professor Bob Bingham.

“We’re working really closely with Professor Bingham,” said Isabel Horgan. “He’s been an invaluable resource to us as a friend and mentor. Working in three-hour studio classes here has given us the chance to get really close to peers and mentors alike.”

Her brother agreed.

“I was interested in coming to CMU because there are more professors here making critical artwork, like research artwork. I was interested in making work like that.”

Both plan to be studio artists once they graduate, and for now, they are making the most of the opportunity to work together.

“Nobody can be honest with you like a sister can,” Samuel Horgan said. “And in art, that’s really useful.”

-By Michael Henninger