William T. Carson
lives in Santa Fe, NM
born in Birney, MT
williamtcarson.com | @williamtcarson
William T. Carson’s work brings a unique perspective to the adage “The medium is the message.” He works with coal to explore a multitude of significations. Beyond the economic, political, or environmental meaning of the substance, Carson reminds us that coal is prehistoric, born of ancient metamorphosis. “The coal I work with is roughly sixty million years old,” he writes. “What began as leafy plant material has been transformed into a flammable black rock through pressure, heat, and time.” Carson has a personal connection to his medium, as well. The coal he works with is from the Wolf Mountain Mine in Decker, Montana, near where he grew up.
Carson’s work highlights coal’s aesthetic properties, like the way it reflects light with different textures. His organization of the material often evokes geological features but also more abstract meanings. For example, in Delta, chunks of coal bounce light from their sheared faces, then abruptly meet a section of powdery, more absorptive material. The contrast and title imply a river delta, as well as a more transcendental concept of change.
‘The coal I work with is roughly sixty million years old’
Carson graduated from the studio arts program of Colorado College and received a scholarship to study architecture in Copenhagen. After school, he moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked at an art and technology start-up while developing his own artistic practice at night and on weekends. He began working with coal in 2015, after studying coal development in his native Montana. His first solo exhibition, Unearth, took place at CAMIBAart Gallery in Austin in 2017. He moved to Santa Fe in 2018, where he is currently working at the Holt-Smithson Foundation and producing work in his studio.