Q+A with Carli Holcomb

January 24, 2017 Features


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?

Thank you.

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.