An Interview with Carli Holcomb
Greg Minissale: What does ‘dirt’ mean to you?
Carli Holcomb: When I think of dirt, I can’t help but think of digging. Of pushing my hands deep in the fragments of the earth. Micro landscapes from centuries ago, caught in the peripheral, clinging to our clothes, catching in our eyes, and collecting in our homes. Dirt feels like a witness. A claim that is broad, and forgetful of consciousness, but for nearly five billion years, if not more, dirt has been watching as the boundless mystery of our world, and those like it unfold.
GM: Could you tell us what materials you are drawn to and the specific techniques you adopted for Once More, Unknowable Terrain and Amalgamate?
CH: I have always believed places sink into us. Out of respect, I let the sites I am working in guide the materials I use. By pairing opulent surfaces with tokens of the landscape, I allow materials whose sources originate in nature to sit side by side with materials that exist because of human design. In Unknowable terrain I used materials I consider directly enlivened by the cosmos, metals like silver and gold that are formed during the core collapse of supernovae. These material origins enable a perceptual shift between cosmic and human scales, and create a dialogue about the fundamental ethos of space. I have to acknowledge, that with the multitude of materials artists have access to at this time, and of the nearly infinite options, I have chosen to work with or replicate the very substance of the earth.
To read more please follow this link: http://drainmag.com/dirt/
VACA board member and artist Julz Suder sat down with artist Carli Holcomb to discuss the results of her Quirk+VisArts Artist Residency. Holcomb will open a solo exhibition of her work at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond in September of 2017 and is donating a piece to Young + Artful’s silent auction.
You were one of the first artists to be able to benefit from the new Quirk+VisArts Artist Residency program. Congratulations! I imagine it was amazing to be able to focus on your artwork and be supported by such a creative community. What’s it been like?
It was funny. After Katie Ukrop told me I’d been selected to be an artist-in-residence, I was so excited that I immediately started crying. I knew, even then, that it was going to be an incredible experience, and the residency was that and so much more.
The Quirk family has been so embracing. I made quick friends with Adam Dorland, who I worked with closely throughout the residency. The gallery was just around the corner if I ever needed to escape the studio. Lucy Gillis was always there for me when I needed to run ideas past someone, and Emily Wicks helped when I decided to start working with clay for a piece that may go into my upcoming show at VisArts. Katie has an incredible vision—her thoughtfulness and support of emerging artists is incomparable.
I feel like I grew a lot during the six months of the residency. When I started, I was just transitioning out of grad school. The residency was the perfect space to leave behind old thoughts, and start cultivating new ideas. Most of my days were spent in the studio testing new ideas, pushing the scope of my materials, and starting to grow a part of my studio practice that I haven’t explored before.
Working two-dimensionally is a new endeavor for me. The process hasn’t been completely comfortable, but I have always felt there was a shared language between my three-dimensional forms and surfaces that can be achieved on paper. I am lamenting the end of the residency, but I am leaving with so many ideas and the support of an incredible art community, which Quirk helped me build. I am endlessly thankful for the opportunity I was given.
What satisfies you most as an artist?
The moment that always satisfies me the most happens just after a project begins. When the idea is there, always half-formed and more ambiguous than I like to admit, but still there. That moment is when [the] work begins.
When my hands are actively engaged with the materials… I love this part of working. It is when I do the most experimentation. My sculptural work deals a lot with surface—I am constantly amalgamating material, applying surfaces and covering them with more material.
A lot of my work is a desire to replicate the sense of awe I feel when I’m looking at something in the natural world that is truly incredible. It can be the smallest thing, like the way a river current tugs at the edge of the bank, or something as heavy and spectacular as looking into the night sky. When I’m in this moment, I don’t see the artificiality of what I’m doing, but instead I feel like a participant in the goings on around me. This is certainly the moment that satisfies me the most.
You’ve got a solo exhibition opening at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond this fall. Tell us what goes into creating new work for something this big.
My process is guided by decisions made in the moment while I am making. Before I begin a piece, I have an overall sense of what I would like the object to be, but many of the decisions I make occur while I’m actually working with the materials. The ideas are there, but I only catch glimpses of them.
With my upcoming VisArts show, I started with a plan for how I would like the show to feel, and then settled on the tone of the work. One of the benefits of the Quirk+VisArts Artist Residency is that I’ve been able to enjoy a studio space at VisArts, and VisArts has generously extended this through the spring and summer. Because of the studio space, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time at VisArts, and some of the architectural features of the space have started to work on me. In the gallery, the ceiling has these incredible whitewashed trusses with really pronounced hardware. These details guide a lot of my work.
My show Black Moon is on view at the Quirk Hotel Mezzanine through November 20th. It is a look into what I have made so far during the Quirk Residency.
Hope you can come out to the Hohman Design Building in Scott's Addition for Current art fair this week! Thursday-Sunday. I will have work on display at the Quirk Gallery booth. This is the first art fair of this kind to be held in Richmond.
In the past week or so, the weather has begun to shift from the height of summer into something slightly darker and deeper. Autumn for me has always been the most mysterious, and therefore creative season. It sneaks in so subtly that today it is here, when yesterday it was not. It announces itself first in the cool nips that tail the late summer breeze, in the quiet mornings when you crave warm coffee, and in the hazy afternoons when you think of dark beer, and crisp golden apples. I'm ready for cool weather, my body is longing for endless hikes on trails lined with leaves wearing every shade of autumn blush. I'm ready for campfires and loose knit sweaters, but mostly I'm ready to slip into my autumn self.
Ideas seem to come easier in the autumn. I think it is because the colors of the landscape align with the colors I am most drawn to. Everything is more saturated. It is the time of year that I most want to be in the studio. Right now I'm making a series of wearables. Some are brass, others silver, and some have pyrite set in them. They shine under my studio lights, and continuously remind me why I love working with metal. I'm also working on the brass elements that will adorn the cragged surface of a sculpture I am working on. It will be displayed in my storefront window on Madison Avenue in October.
I hope Autumn brings the same sense of renewal to you. Here is a preview of what is to come.
After incessantly checking my mailbox for several weeks, for real... I even checked it on a few Sundays, Metalsmith Magazine has finally arrived. It is kind of amazing to hold it in my hand. I have spent the past few days drooling over all the work that is inside. The theme of this year's magazine is "Shifting Sites," a subject that falls immediately within my own conceptual language. My work responds so much to place, both actual and imagined. In the magazine there is an incredible article written by Susie Silbert, that addresses so much of what I have been considering in my own process.
Thinking back to my first experience visiting the Byrd Park Pump House, where the pieces Constellate and Amalgamate, both of which are featured in this magazine were installed and documented, I feel an intense connection to this place. My initial visit occurred just after I arrived in Virginia. I remember walking the damp corridors and standing in awe of the forlorn gothic architecture. Each doorway opened into a darker stranger part of the building. In the pump room where Constellate was documented, giant pipes drip mud silted water into collection pools that are filled with rubble. This rubble has been decaying for decades, and has left behind a thick foam that bubbles over the untouched surface. This room is dark and cavernous, lit only by high pointed windows, draping it in light that can only be described as seeming to filter through a cathedral.
After climbing the three, maybe four flights of stairs you emerge into one of two symmetrical rooms, and from there you walk out into an open-aired ballroom. This ballroom has a wooden floor, and a railing of thick iron. This is where Constellate was installed. The pump House has sort of a strange utopian quality to it. It was not only a municipal building that provided water for Richmond up until 1924, but also served as a place of leisure. Couples would spend the balmy southern nights dancing to music playing off a phonograph, while just beneath their feet water was being pulled through the canal, pumped into locks, and moved throughout the area. I find the idea of the open-air ballroom hovering just over a giant mechanical waterway both strange and alluring.
I wanted both of these objects to have a geography of their own, to be new territories, both contextualized by their own ornament, and in turn contextualizing the ornament of the space. Each was intended to seem remote, and unknown, as if they belonged to, but could not have originated there. I consider these installations an act of love. I am for a short time a steward of these neglected spaces. In the documentation time is frozen, in that moment materials from a multitude of places are assimilated into a landscape tableau. One that I hope has the ability to reveal the truth about the object and the space.
It was such a sweet surprise to find out that my work is on the cover of the upcoming Metalsmith Magazine. I am honored to be featured in the magazine, and blown away to see my work on the cover. It has been a goal of mine to be in Metalsmith Magazine since I first began metalsmithing, and to see my work on the cover is truly an unbelievable feeling.
I have exciting news to share! I have been offered a four week residency at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson Vermont. I can already tell you it is going to be amazing. I will be living and working in a community of artists starting in early February. I have only seen pictures, but the campus is absolutely breathtaking, and Vermont is one of the places I have always dreamed of visiting.
Cheers to the adventures to come!
I am only a month into my residency at Quirk Hotel and Gallery, and I already feel like I never want to leave. My life revolves around the studio morning until night, punctuated only by trips to the nearby coffee shops, visits with friends, and trips to the river. It is the most amazing experience. I live just up the stairs from my studio. I can see the work I accomplished the day before from the kitchen as I make my morning french press.
It has so far been a deeply contemplative experience. I am mulling over everything I accomplished during grad school and attempting to set a road map for my future. I am indulging all of my desires for experimentation in my work. Right now I am trying to problem solve how to grow crystals over the entirety of a 24'' point to point dodecahedron. On my night stand is a book about how to run a lathe, and another about camel trekking in Australia (more on this later!) I have made 16 pendulums on the lathe, and have only a few more rods left. I am excited to see what else will come of my new love, fear, and respect of this amazing tool.
Quirk has been incredibly generous to provide me with such a peaceful place to make my work. In addition to a home and a studio I also have access to a storefront window on Madison Avenue in which I can display my work. I currently have a large drawing and a piece from my thesis show on display. When the light hits the scattered cubic zirconia just right the entire room glitters. I hope you will check back often to see the work in the window.
An oh so sweet welcome home gift from Quirk