William Carroll talks Side-Ways Artist Residency at Union Gallery

Carroll is a conceptual photographer and sculptor

William Carroll is completing the Side-Ways Artist Residency at Union Gallery. 
Supplied by William Carroll.

William Carroll is a visual artist whose recent works include home-grown crystals and a giant spray foam cherry pie.

Carroll is on the autism spectrum and identifies as non-binary. They’re currently completing the Side-Ways Artist Residency with Union Gallery while living in an apartment in Kingston and working in a studio with friend and fellow artist-in-residence, Francisco Corbett.

“Meeting Fran and then beginning to collaborate a lot more and sharing space with him has allowed me to expand into new venues,” they said. “Never be afraid to connect with another artist because, being on the spectrum, I have a lot of issues connecting with people. It’s hard for me to do that. I’m really glad I decided to reach out despite the fact it made me really wildly uncomfortable because it has bettered my life in a lot of ways.”

The Side-Ways Artist Residency is comprised of 10 visual artists, and the goal is to foster collaboration between them.

The artists meet every month, present projects, and give feedback to each other. In smaller groups, they work on new projects and methods.

Carroll does a lot of sculpture work but primarily identifies as a conceptual photographer. Under the name Green Moth Photography, they sell prints on their website.

“I do think that being on the spectrum influences my art. I didn’t really realize it until I watched a documentary called [The Reason] I Jump which is based on a book by a nonverbal autistic child from Japan,” Carroll said.

“There was a point in it where they were talking about how for them, they can’t focus on a larger picture. When they see things, they small details before they see the greater image. That’s something I do. When I go to the movies for example, I can’t actually look at the whole screen at the same time. It’s very overwhelming. I can only look at smaller portions of it. I had always assumed that was related to being an artist and my artistic eye, less so than being on the spectrum.”

One of Carroll’s recent projects is a photo series called Soap Dish, which is based on the inkblots from the Rorschach test but created by adding food dye to liquid dish soap.

To create the desired image, Carroll first added just a few millilitres of clear liquid dish soap to a glass food container, then added a splash of food colouring. Their intent was for the food colouring to react like ink when it’s spilt on paper, but because soap is so viscous, they had to mix the food dye with a barbecue skewer.

“I did it in a mindless fashion so that I didn’t have a directed output because I didn’t want [the photos] to have any intended design behind them. I wanted them to be completely natural,” they said. 

“Recently I’ve expanded into sculpture, but I work primarily with spray foam and nothing else.”

Spray foam, Carroll said, is used as easy-to-install housing insulation and—less frequently—to make giant cherry pies.

According to Carroll, the cherry pie was inspired by one of former president Donald Trump’s final bizarre moves in office, which was to deregulate the contents of cherry pie.

Carroll coats the spray foam in acrylic paint and liquid latex to get the final effect.

When they’re not working with foam, Carroll likes to grow crystals by using borax, Epsom salt and other compounds and mixing these with food colouring. Sometimes the crystals can take as long as a month to grow.

“Because of the pandemic, I got limited in terms of my resources because I was buying my crystal stuff from Bulgaria,” Carrol said.

Overall, Carroll thrives on finding new methods and mediums to create in rather than leaning on what’s been done before. As a result, they’re able to create some striking and unexpected new images that can grab and hold your attention. 

“I really enjoy mixing science and art. They are things that often are kept a little bit too separated.”

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