New York artist Samantha Holmes arrived at Franconia Sculpture Park this summer as a FSP/Jerome fellow. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Experimental Mosaic from Accademia di Belle Arti di Ravenna, Samantha uses cultural symbols and patterns to fracture and question the world around us. Her new sculpture And If We Should Pass Here is now on exhibit near the entrance to our wooded area of the park.
Tell us about your project at the park and what it will contribute to our sculptural landscape.
My sculpture at Franconia, And If We Should Pass Here is the three-dimensional outline of a stone wall traced in the air as if by mortar alone, like the skeleton of a wall without its substance. The placement of the sculpture in the middle of the path obstructs the viewer’s movement through the park, while the transparency of the piece calls attention to the continuity of the two sides, emphasizing the arbitrary nature of such borders. The open “stones” of the wall also serve as a framing device, offering the visitor an ever-changing view of the parkland and its broad community of artists and visitors. Depending on where you stand, the wall’s “stones” frame fields, forest, and nearby sculptures. Rather than a site of exclusion, the wall becomes a locus of exchange: visitors can look through it, speak across it, play on it, even climb it.
How does your time at Franconia compare to other residencies or projects you’ve completed?
Franconia allowed me to work bigger than ever before, and to figure out the complexities of the project as I went along. Franconia has such a culture of support for artists trying new things – a place “where pigs fly” – that allowed me to finally translate into steel a project I had in mind for nearly a year. It’s exceptional to find a place willing to support artists in the early stages of a project, and Franconia thrives in that space. Perhaps because of that commitment to experimentation, the park also provides an incredible system of financial, technical, and personal support that help us bring these projects to fruition.
What did you learn at FSP? What was the biggest challenge?
What didn’t I learn at FSP? In practical terms, my time at Franconia has opened a new world to me in terms of working with steel, enormously increasing my comfort and abilities with welding, grinding, plasma- and torch cutting, as well as more general skills of moving and manipulating large-scale sculpture throughout creation and installation processes. In many stages of this project, I learned how a decision made earlier can present challenges later on – an important reminder that of the value (and challenge!) of planning each step of a process before beginning work.
On a personal level, I learned how deeply I love working physically on this scale, making art with my whole body, rather than just the my hands…. work that makes you tired, and dirty, that takes all your time and energy, but emerges into the world as something a viewer encounters with the body, as well as the mind. This immersive work is something that will absolutely impact my career moving forward, and I am determined to pursue more opportunities on this scale.
Any upcoming plans or projects after leaving Franconia?
I’m installing a sculpture in Riverside Park in Manhattan this August, and finishing up a mosaic project I’ve been working on in Queens. But I’d also like to focus on expanding my project at Franconia into a series, allowing each wall to take on a slightly different form: a circular well, a narrow hallway, or a room within a field, playing with ideas of interior and exterior space. This project feels particularly timely right now, as the world grows increasingly divided, so it feels important to call attention to the arbitrary nature of these borders – whether physical walls, or psychological ones.
The FSP/Jerome Fellowship Program is made possible, in part, by generous support from the Jerome Foundation. Established in 1997, the FSP/Jerome Fellowship Program supports the creation of new works by emerging visual artists from New York City and Minnesota.
Subscribe to Franconia’s blog and never miss out on a FSP Spotlight interview. Check out earlier 2017 Spotlight installments: Jordan Rosenow and April Martin, Nooshim Hakim Javadi and Pedram Baldari, Bill Klaila, Laura Feldberga and Ojars Feldbergs! We will be featuring all of our 2017 Fellowship Artists throughout the summer and fall, so stay tuned.