Refrain is a project that addresses issues of this industrial material’s relationship to human expansion and destruction. The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad was a project that exploited Black Americans and immigrant laborers and enabled the eventual genocide of indigenous people and near extinctions of various species across this nation.
Refrain is a sculptural project that represents the first Transcontinental Railroad symbolically through text and scale. I plan to cast interlocking toy train tracks in iron, each embossed with words so the audience can create sentences with the pieces. I plan to create 690 pattern pieces in iron. Each 6-inch piece will represent a mile of the Central Pacific Railroad (approximately a third of the total 1,776 miles). At each conference and pour that I attend for the Foundry Tree, I plan to cast more sections. I plan to exhibit this work in stages,
I will connect Foundry Tree to the Refrain by soliciting iron casting artists I meet through the conferences, matching them to a state transversed by the transcontinental rail line. My ultimate goal is to cast and present the work at institutions/art centers across the US over the ensuing years until I eventually cast all 1,776 pieces. I am proud to note that on March 2, 2018, the first two pieces of Refrain were cast outside SAIC’s Columbus Building at the first on-campus iron pour.
I am currently working on many levels to maintain the longevity of these projects. By collaborating with a Bibliographer at University of Chicago Library to source first person texts from individuals who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad, I will utilize them as content to stamp words into waxes. In final exhibitions of this work, I imagine the texts being displayed on the walls with other 2D visual references including a map and images of railroad workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad. I hope to draw connections to contemporary issues of violence towards immigrants, environment, and children. These wooden toys, recast in iron, reference a handgun in scale and material.
This is the first step in a multi-year endeavor. Through the large/small scale and long timeline involved I hope to underscore a reference to the social, environmental, and human impact of the Transcontinental Railroad and the continued need for understanding the cycles of national violence, which we inherit and pass onto our children. I see this as a project to that will steer my career over the next five years, as well as my goal to include my children in my art life and practice.
As of March 2019, I have cast 35 tracks in iron. They are documented (both sides) below: