Unearth began with the discovery of a series of black and white photographs published in the Sandy Gazette of doomed mining ventures in the Oregon wilderness. In the early 20th Century Welches, Oregon locals looking to stake their claim in the ever expanding gold rim on the Pacific Coast, dug a series of small mines along the foothills of Mt Hood. Enticed by the prospect of a shiny flake surface in the stone – pyrite, colloquially known as fool’s gold drew them deeper into their labor – gold was never found.
“Charlie Perschall was one of the turn-of-the-century (1800 to 1900) miners who spent 15 years in the hills above Welches prospecting for gold,” Paul Keller, explains in his 2015 Sandy Gazette Article, Mining Disaster. “Year after years and years of hard work” — he came down off the flanks of nearby Huckleberry Mountain with a quart jar full of what he believed were gold nuggets. Turns out they were chalcopyrite (KAL-ko-PY-ryt), otherwise known as fool’s gold. “He became so despondent over the disappointment,” Lutie lamented, “that he killed himself with his shotgun.”
I have been responding to these accounts in a series works that recall the speculative instinct of these failed mining ventures. Working in a cave system sited in the region, my video, installation and photography calls to mind the seductive impulse of the miners and their failures. These works use pyrite and mica dust cast in the natural light of the cave to resemble rich specters of fleeting desire and visibility.
(See Unearth sub-pages for media and project details)