Carli Holcomb turned the back of her late grandfather’s pickup into a camper for an adventure a couple of years ago in the Canadian Rockies that would inspire her art. That’s where she fell in love with the milky-blue of the glacial silt-filled lakes.
Every night, she’d watch the moon rise and the waves crash and pull back to reveal rocks, fallen trees and sand she wouldn’t have seen beneath the opaque water.
“And I just thought that was so powerful and so mysterious,” she said.
She describes her show “By the Light of the Moon,” on display through August at Scarlow’s Gallery in downtown Casper, as “a mediation on thresholds, edges, lines and the spaces where one thing shifts to become another,” in her artist statement.
No reception is planned because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Holcomb has talked with people about her work at Scarlow’s Art & Coffee.
“I’m happy to meet anybody who wants to chat and just have a cup of coffee and experience the exhibition,” she said.
Thresholds have long been a repeated element in Holcomb’s art throughout her career with highlights including the cover of Metalsmith Magazine, a mention in the New York Times and teaching at Casper College. She draws inspiration from her home state of Wyoming, travels abroad and experiences out in landscapes.
She created most of the pieces for her latest show in the spring and summer amid the isolation of the pandemic, which felt like a boundary in a sense, she explained. The art has a lot to do with wanderlust.
“I was really thinking about that idea of separation and thinking more about the poetic memories of traveling and actually getting to see new things, and that sort of feeling of awe when you are experiencing something new,” she said.
‘By the Light of the Moon’
Holcomb spent about a month exploring the Canadian Rockies with her best friend. But when one lives in a truck with another person for a month, they need to take some time for themselves, too.
“My ritual was always to kind of sit by the lake shore and watch the moon rise,” she said, “And I just fell so in love with that kind of slow pace of life and life on the road.”
Crossing a boundary or a threshold has long held spiritual meaning for the artist.
“And that’s what really inspired thinking about this exhibition, is just that relationship between the water and the shorelines, and just edge lines in particular, even watching the moon come up above a horizon, that was crossing a threshold,” she said.
“By the Light of the Moon” includes direct monoprints and experimental pieces she created by hand-cutting paper into elaborate patterns and placing them over monoprint backgrounds of layered ink. She begins with an X-Acto knife and no drawing or even a plan.
“So just kind of like make a cut and then look at the work and then make a cut based on how that pattern is starting to unfold,” she said. “It’s always really exciting to see them at the end because they’re not planned.”
The show features her metal work as well, with bronze pieces and a copper piece — both hand-cut using a jeweler’s saw — as well as a series of drawings in gold leaf pen.
The exhibition draws inspiration from edges and lines of demarcation — “those kind of moments where one thing shifts into another,” she said.
She describes in her artist statement her fascination with the gesture of water: “Reaching out just before pulling back again. It is so much like the human touch.”
The process — whether active movements to ink direct monoprints or cutting into paper — is an essential part of the art. The hand-cut pieces would be distinctively changed if they were created by machine.
“That’s very human gesture as well, making something by hand.”
The title of the show distills the work to its essential meaning of that simple awe, the idea of how the light of the moon changes everything, she said.
“It’s a poetic way of thinking about that threshold, like that transition,” Holcomb noted. “I kind of equate it to the water lapping up against the lake shore, the horizon shifting between light and dark — all these boundaries.”
Holcomb grew up in Green River, where her love for the outdoors sparked early.
“I was basically raised on a drift boat on the Green River,” she said.
Her adventuring grandfather used to fly fish and camp in the back of his truck. After he died, Holcomb rebuilt the back into a bed platform with space for a kayak and two bicycles. The Canada trip and connection with her grandfather would inspire her current show.
While the pandemic brought isolation and longing for faraway places, she’s explored through her art and Wyoming’s outdoors.
Besides her lifelong love of camping and fishing, her newer pastime in the past year, paddleboarding, gives her access to new spaces and views of lake shores around Wyoming.
“A lot of my work is derived from just the experience of being out in the landscape, too. I would say that this show really does connect with love of Wyoming, though, and love of the landscape.”
She’s been creating the cut paper pieces for the past few years, but in recent months experimented with combining them with the monoprint backgrounds.
“And for this I just wanted to sort of take that apart and do something that was more about feeling rather than just kind of that clean image,” she said.
She’s always been adventurous in her art, which has led her to create in a variety of mediums.
“I have a lot of curiosity with making art, so I love testing new ideas and learning new processes. But I think that kind of fuels the art itself, that desire to learn and to connect with the materials.”
Holcomb’s work has shown in solo and group exhibitions, recently at the Quirk Gallery and The Visual Arts Center of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia, as well as PaperMakers and LIGHT Art+Design in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, according to her website.
Her work in 2016 was featured the cover of Metalsmith Magazine, exceeding her lifetime career goal just to get into the magazine. Her an artist-in-residency at the Quirk Hotel and Gallery in Richmond, Virginia, shortly after graduate school was mentioned in The New York Times.
She recently had a piece in the inaugural exhibition of the Quirk’s new gallery space in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Holcomb teaches 3-D design, sculpture, printmaking and metalsmithing at Casper College, which she attended for two years. She continued her education at the University of Wyoming and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Holcomb in the next couple of weeks plans to launch her new jewelry line, Carli Jewelry, and bring some pieces to her show at Scarlow’s Gallery.
The idea came from watching the polish deepen in a bracelet she created and has worn everywhere from her studio to travels in Portugal and Croatia.
“I love that your lifestyle, the adventures that you go on kind of find their way into the jewelry and make a mark on the jewelry, too,” Holcomb said. “I’m thinking about it as jewelry that can just be a part of your experience.”
Follow arts & culture reporter Elysia Conner on twitter @erconner
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