Metalsmith Magazine and the Pump House / by Carli Holcomb

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. 

Constellate, and a quote about my work.

Constellate, and a quote about my work.