Stainless Steel Interactive Sculpture
7’x 7′


Wall drawing
40′ x 16′

The installation Topophilia features pieces in dialogue with one another that explore unseen encounters with place. Using landmarks of the city of Baltimore, my intention is to bring new playful perspectives and contexts to unnoticed areas that have been explicitly shaped by technology that people experienced every day.  [tunnel] (2023) is a playful stainless steel sculpture that is a dimensional representation of Baltimore’s (in)famous underwater Harbor Tunnel. Spanning the city’s inner harbor and connecting two sides of Baltimore, this invisible tube shuttles cars silently under the water. The tunnel also lies hidden under what has been a historic and bustling port and important Native American lands. The Harbor Tunnel is a technological marvel, made by engineers to intersect and overcome the natural world. Using the design plans of the tunnel and rendering them in an interactive sculpture makes the portal tangible in order to spur conversations about what humans do to the natural world. Making the human-made into something with a life of its own, with a water-inspired, organic rippling effect and blue lighting, the tangible [tunnel] becomes a shimmering, experiential and musical instrument around which to have embodied-aware conversations. It’s also just fun and mesmerizing to touch, like a giant elegant slinky.

[tunnel] sits with the nearby [hill] which maps a dramatic mound in Baltimore that no longer exists. [hill] is an op-art, large-scale, wall-to-floor drawing of Baltimore’s Federal Hill as it was thought to be shaped in the early 19th Century, when the geography of the site was far more varied and textured. Representing the element of earth, [hill] interprets the forever-changed historical landmark in a dizzying optic situation that extends over the floor and encompasses visitors as they approach it, encouraging people to experience this familiar landmark anew and honor what it used to be.

Accompanying the two pieces that explore elements and place, I’ve created sets of haikus written collaboratively with the AI “Kay” to complement the experience in the exhibition. “Kay”, a sister of my early AI “Grace” is one of the ways I create poems with computer algorithms. Previous work [the mirror book] and [Grace: AI] are precursors to this new work. These poems are meant to slow us down and consider these obscured places, and the land today.

Technicallyl, [tunnel] is constituted by a pair of 7ft panels that support 49 vertical stainless steel rods on each side. The curve of [tunnel] parametrically maps the astounding engineering feat of Baltimore’s Harbor Tunnel by referencing its shape in the design. Open on both ends with two sides of sculpted metal rods, the piece is at once mechanical and organic. Touching the rods brings them into contact with one another and a tinkling sound is produced. 

Viewers are invited to walk through the tunnel surrounded by rippling sounds which audibly represent “all the waves of water tamed by the tunnel. The form reflects the long, engineered curve of the structure, stretching 1.4 miles across and under the Patapsco River.”

“Steel and water, soil and sky: The landscape of Baltimore takes different forms in Mary Flanagan’s contemplative funhouse, “Topophilia”— a word meaning the love of place… “   …Baltimore Museum of Art….

This work was commissioned by the Baltimore Museum of Art, Joseph Education Center.


Topophilia,” exhibition at the Joseph Education Center, Baltimore Museum of Art, 3 December 2023 – 2026.


Staff. “Baltimore Museum of Art to Reopen Renovated Joseph Education Center.” The Daily Record, 29 November 2023. 

McCauley, Mary Carole. “Please Touch the Artwork: Baltimore Museum of Art Opens Expanded Education Center After $2.5 Million Renovation.” The Baltimore Sun, 29 November 2023. 

Thanks to: Gamynne Guillotte, Verónica Betancourt, Kaitlyn Garbarino, David Verchomin, Olivia Tucker, Chris Fong, Carlyn Wilder, Sarah Hammond, Dylan Conner, Donald Carbino, Max Seidman, Danielle Taylor