Refrain is a project that links iron, as an industrial material, to human expansion and destruction. The construction of the First 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 the United States of America.
Refrain is a sculptural project that represents the first Transcontinental Railroad symbolically through text and scale. I am my second year of casting interlocking toy train tracks in iron, each embossed with words so the audience can create sentences with the pieces. Each 6-inch piece will represent a mile of the 1,912 miles first Transcontinental Railroad. At each conference and pour that I attend for the Foundry Tree, I hope 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 1,912 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. To date I have 57 pieces cast. I hope to have 200 pieces cast by the end of the second year, then 100 each year for the next 15 years.
I am currently working to maintain the longevity of these projects. By collaborating with a Bibliographer at University of Chicago Library to source literature from the time period of the first Transcontinental Railroad. I will utilize the word pairing as content to stamp words on the front and backs of the tracks while in wax. 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. The literature I have been resourcing is often violent.
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:
As of August of 2019 I have cast 57 tracks. I hope to cast 100 per year.