Samantha Holmes

Hell Gate Cairns

Samantha Holmes’ Hell Gate Cairns will be a series of stacked stone pillars, or cairns, that stand watch over the southern coastline of Randall’s Island Park, a monument to the human creativity and industry with which we have shaped the world around us, from land reclamation projects to the construction of buildings and cities. Through their simplicity of structure, Holmes aims to embody our impulse to imaginative construction – stacking stones first in play, then as architecture. Their verticality will mirror that of the city beyond. The surface of the cairns will be covered in stone mosaic with flickers of glass and gold, reflecting the light of sun and water, and turning the medium of mosaic upon itself: stone celebrating stone, a symbol of the creative relationship between man and nature. 

By focusing on the forms of natural stone, the piece will draw attention to the boulders that line the Park’s paths and fields, remnants of the great earthmoving projects of the 20th century that cleared the city’s waterways – most notably the perilous “Hell Gate”, the narrow stretch of water between Randall’s Island and Queens responsible for hundreds of early shipwrecks. The monument’s placement at the water’s edge will recall these feats of human engineering, while further calling upon the cairns’ symbolism as both a memorial to the deceased, and an ancient sign of treacherous waters. (A)

The Artist

Samantha Holmes(b. 1984, Carmel, New York)

Samantha Holmes recontextualizes sacred forms and techniques within a modern urban landscape to explore disparities between the clarity of ideology and the fractured nature of contemporary life. By simultaneously adopting and distorting these motifs, her work captures both a desire for and disconnect from the certainties of faith, be it religious or secular. A mosaicist by training, every inch of Holmes’ work is cut and placed by hand, the slowness of the process essential to its message - each step an act of devotion that moves towards the creation of a unified whole. She holds a BA from Harvard University (2006) and an MFA from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Ravenna (2014).

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