Beyond the Bio is a series that takes you past the canvas and into the minds of the artists and curators who build the contemporary arts community.
Name: William T. Carson
Primary Medium: Coal
Lives In: East Austin
What motivates your work?
My work is inspired by my relationship with coal. I spent my childhood on a cattle ranch in Montana’s Powder River Basin, which is the most productive coal mining region in the country. Growing up I was intrigued by the contrast between the pristine, wild nature of the ranchland and the sculpted, manipulated nature of the strip mines.
In 2014 a mining company was proposing to build a massive new strip mine near my family’s ranch. 90 miles of new railroad were to be built over fertile, family-owned farmland to service this new mine. My father and I followed the entire proposed route of the railroad on a horsepacking expedition, witnessing the landscape and discussing the potential development with communities along the way. The work I am making is a reaction to my experiences with coal from my childhood and this horsepacking expedition.
Through my artwork I am searching for new ways to value coal. I believe coal is beautiful, yet I feel that coal’s reputation can make it difficult to see the beauty in the stone. We often consider coal for its economic value, but what if we consider coal for its aesthetic value? If not a fuel, what is coal?
Creating artwork with coal has allowed me to learn about the nature of the material and observe its tendencies and qualities. I find working with 60 million year old rocks to be a grounding and enjoyable experience. Over time I have developed a fondness for coal and its aesthetic qualities that I had previously overlooked, which I hope to share with others through the paintings and sculptures in this exhibition.
How long have you been an artist and how has your practice changed over time?
I have loved making artwork in some form or another since I was a kid. Drawing has always been at the core of my artistic practice. Three years ago I transitioned from making primarily figurative work to abstract, process based work, but still use drawing to guide my compositions. I learn something new from each coal painting and I feel there is still much to learn from the material.
What are you working on right now?
Three years of experimentation with coal have led to the work I am making now. The paintings in this exhibition are created with straight lines, simple shapes, and gradients. All of the forms in these compositions find definition through differences in the size and texture of the stones. In order to gather the necessary stones to create these shapes, I spend much of my time sorting coal. Spending this time sorting the stones has become important to me; I gain an appreciation for the qualities of the material by sorting and I gather inspiration for the paintings by observing the way the coal naturally behaves.
What does the Austin arts community need most as the city continues to grow?
In my experience I have found that the Austin art community has a welcoming and inviting atmosphere and anyone is up for a conversation. I hope that this accessibility and warmth can be maintained as the city’s population grows.
William T. Carson studied architecture in 2013 at DIS in Copenhagen, Denmark and in 2015 graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs Colorado with a BA Magna Cum Laude with Distinction in Art Studio.
UNEARTH is an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and sculptures made using coal. The work in this exhibition is meant to present the viewer with coal in its raw form. UNEARTH is William T. Carson’s first solo exhibition.
On the evening of September 13th, we will be hosting an Art Alliance Austin Art Break for a members only preview of the show. At the Art Break, members of the audience will be able to participate in activating a coal sculpture to create a sound experience and an erosion drawing.
The exhibition is at CAMIBAart Gallery and will be open from September 15th through October 14th. The opening reception will be from 6-8pm on Friday, September 15th.
Beyond the Bio is curated by Art Alliance Austin. If you’re interested in being featured email Ashlee at firstname.lastname@example.org.