Duncan MacDiarmid feels a connection to the land—the grit, moisture, light, and emotion that binds our human experience. This interest led him first to clay, a medium that would allow him to sculpt portraits and figures that would be fired in a kiln or cast in bronze. Eventually, he began putting small figurines into miniature landscapes made from found objects and cement. This series of work moved his artwork toward visual constructions that describe aspects of our human relationship to the natural world.

    Raised in Philadelphia, MacDiarmid moved to Pittsburgh in 1988. The Strip became home to his first studio. Tucked away on the second floor of Penn Avenue Pottery, MacDiarmid produced sculptural terracotta tiles that he marketed to craft galleries. He worked there for a decade before moving his workspace to his home in Lawrenceville, which was at that time a developing artist community. MacDiarmid cites the Society of Sculptors/SOS as providing mentors and exhibition opportunities that were pivotal to his development. He currently leads this notable 88-year-old organization as its president.

    Individual details of MacDiarmid’s Firetree Project.

    Individual details of MacDiarmid’s Firetree Project.

    When reviewing MacDiarmid’s 2014 solo exhibition at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Mary Thomas, art critic for the Post-Gazette, wrote, “All of [his sculptures] show a mastery of technique elevated by the artist’s pervasive authenticity, which rises out of admiration, stewardship, and wonder for his subject.”

    Duncan currently lives and works in his home/studio on a hillside in Reserve Township overlooking the Allegheny River and the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville.

    He may be contacted at; 412-294-3948  (website:

    A new version of his ongoing and continuously revised Firetree Project is set for September 16.

    Igniting a Global Vision

    The previous Firetree  celebration, returning in a new version set in  mid-September (photo by Steve Groves).

    The previous Firetree celebration, returning in a new version set in mid-September (photo by Steve Groves).

    The Firetree Project is a 24-foot-tall steel sculpture that looks as if it were lifted from a child’s fairytale book. There’s a message within the Firetree that applies to all ages—of people connecting with people to build a strong planet future. With or without evening fireworks, this powerful artwork is guaranteed to be as spectacular as the supportive community of individuals, organizations, and businesses from the Pittsburgh region that helped make this project possible. (website:

    Event details: Open house, Saturday, September 16, 2023, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. The location is the NIKO Contracting Company, 2923 Penn Avenue, in the Strip District. The venue will be outdoors in the construction yard of this copper-roofing and fabrication shop, located directly across the street from Salem’s Market and Grill.

    This is a daylight, public opportunity to experience the final and fully assembled Firetree Project. Since its last showing four years ago, this large outdoor sculpture has received extensive additions and decorative details that have almost tripled its size. Four commissioned artists working in painting, fiber art, glass, and assemblage have added their creative voices to the project. They are, respectively, Sara Tang, Erin Relac, SaraBeth Post Eskuche, and Alejandro Franco. Allora Wine Group will offer information and samples of their Italian wine selection—as an eclectic mix of upbeat world music plays throughout the evening. Information about the symbolic significance of the artwork will be available and visitors can activate bells that hang within the sculpture … and yes, you can touch the tree! Experience, in person, this artwork’s impressive scale, remarkable detail, global symbolism, and of course, all that hand-worked polished copper!