In residence in Charlotte, artist William Cordova creates with history at the McColl Center | WFAE 90.7

History is a big deal for William Cordova.

The artist is known for his dig deep into the nuances historical events to inform his work. So an extended visit to North Carolina for a new residency program at Charlotte’s McColl Center was exactly what he needed. In fact, it has been six years since he intended to take this direction. Now he has the time and a local project underway.

William Cordova is the first Catalyst Artist-in-Residence at the McColl Center.

“I needed to go to UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University and other colleges and universities and go through a lot of historical records of civil disobedience in North Carolina and use some of this material to shape my project into visual pieces,” Cordova said. . “Most of them will be abstract or geometric in shape.”

The McColl Center has offered residencies since it opened to the public in the late 1990s, hosting more than 400 artists over the years. But the new Catalyst Residency Program is different: it is intended to bring in artists with national profiles, and it has a more flexible schedule.

“Catalyst is really this opportunity to think broadly about how we serve artists to give them time and to structure a program that opens up our resources in a different way,” said Jonell Logan, vice president and director. creative from the McColl Center.

It’s not just about having a well-known artist creating at the center either. Cordova and those who follow him will work alongside fellow artists in residence and those participating in McColl’s studio programs.

“Building a creative community is important to Catalyst because they bring that other level of experience, expertise, and connections,” Logan said. “And we want to make sure they share that with the artists that are here in Charlotte.”

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The McColl Center is pictured in Charlotte.

Cordova certainly fits the bill for an artist at a later stage in their career. He is based in Miami, New York and Lima, Peru, and his work has been acclaimed for years. His art has been featured at the Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and La Casa de las Americas in Cuba, to name a few. And he’s had top residencies in New York, Houston, and Berlin.

He is well known for incorporating Afro-Peruvian culture and pop culture into his works, which include installations, sculptures and drawings. In Charlotte, he has also been busy taking pictures. And in a city known for embracing the new, Cordova doesn’t keep its lens trained on the horizon.

“I walk around documenting the landscape — what people write on the walls or sometimes what people have etched in texts dating back to the 50s and 60s on the sidewalks,” Cordova said. “These impressions are really very revealing sometimes.”

Cordova says people often write down not just their names but also their dates. And these marks can refer to significant events — sometimes the people who inscribed them, like relationships, and sometimes the broader themes of the time, like oppression.

“They’re all visible,” Cordova said. “It’s just that most people don’t look down when they walk. Most people drive. So I think printing them out and sharing them with the public – if people actually see these photographs, it’s going to change the way they think about the sidewalk. So the next time they go out on the street, they’ll be looking down.

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North Carolina State Archives



Members of the Lumbee tribe of Robeson County clash with white men at a KKK rally in 1958 in an incident known as the Battle of Hayes Pond, which resulted in the flight of Klan members.

Stories of civil disobedience, of people standing up for justice or fighting against oppression resonate with him, and he is particularly interested in the Battle of Hayes Pond. It was then that in 1958, armed members of the The Lumbee tribe clashed with the KKK at a Robeson County rally, forcing white supremacists to flee into the night.

“I’m going to go to where the Battle of Hayes Pond took place,” Cordova said. “What I’m going to do is try to see if I can sample some of the dirt in the area, maybe some plants, and turn it into inks and paints, do screen prints and draw with it. Also, if there are any bottles there, I might try melting them down and making some event-related lenses or shapes.

He also wants to know more about the Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham and Greensboro in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the history of the Black Panther Party in the stateAbove all a pop-up center in High Point.

Cordova and the other artists in residence — Rachel Eng, Ọmọlará Williams McCallister, Andre Leon Gray and Irisol Gonzales – have worked together before. He was able to share his advice with other artists on techniques, get in touch with galleries and strengthen their academic career.

There is an art exhibition from Cordoba, “rumi-maki. infinite harmonics of southern alchemy‘, currently on display at McColl, as well as the work of the current roster of artists in residence. Their exhibition is called “Public Matters/Private Conduct.”

Additionally, Charlotte residents are invited to not only view the work in the gallery space, but also meet the artists – and even see the creative process.

“We have a signal,” Logan said. “If the door to the artist’s studio is open, he is welcome for a visit.”

Cordova’s residency ends on April 9. The other artist residencies end on April 19. You can learn more about the McColl Center’s current artists in residence and exhibitions here.

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