My childhood was spent in rural Montana on a cattle ranch, where my parents have lived for the last 40 years. Growing up on the ranch I found that the best existence in this isolated place was to spend time alone in the landscape creating art. Taking time to look, observe, and create, helped me to understand my place in the world as a child and has continued to do so as I grow older.
The pristine natural beauty I found in the landscape as a child was made more precious and confusing through the contrast of the coal mines that surround my family's ranch. Right in the heart of coal country in the Powder River Basin, the land around my childhood home is constantly in threat of development for strip coal mines.
A new coal mine is slated to be developed in the area, and 90 miles of railroad tracks would be built along the Tongue River in order to connect the coal to existing lines. This coal would be bound for China. The railroad would condemn thousands of acres of fertile, family-owned, farm and ranch land. To witness this place, my father and I took a horsepacking expedition that followed the path of the proposed railroad in the fall of 2014. This expedition and lessons from it have informed my creative process in creating artwork with coal.
I find the tension between the natural beauty of untouched land and the destruction of this pristine state through the mining and extraction of resources to be both beautiful and intriguing. Through my artwork I aim to explore this tension between the intrinsic value in preserving the landscape and the necessity of exploiting resources to achieve colossal advances in civilization and to explore new territories.
Humans have lived with this dilemma in our relationship to nature and its resources for thousands of years. At what point will we develop a relationship to land that allows us to appreciate its resources as something more than a resource? What is coal if not a fuel?
Artworks by William T. Carson are included in the following CAMIBAart exhibits: