Wrangell Mountains Center

McCarthy, Alaska

2016

Because of the discovery of high-grade copper ore in the Wrangell Mountains in 1900, the Alaska Syndicate was born. Made up of wealthy families (Havemayer, J.P. Morgan, and  Guggenheim) they formed the Kennecott Copper Corporation to develop several mining claims in the area. Seeing an opportunity, John Barrett homesteaded land at the mouth of McCarthy Creek in 1906. In 1907, construction of the Copper River & Northwest Railway began, stretching from the shipping docks of Cordova to the mill at Kennecott, some 200 miles. Barrett then leased his land to the railway for a train depot and the locomotive turn table. McCarthy soon became the support town for Kennecott miners and mill workers, its culture the hub of prostitution and alcohol, which were strictly forbidden in the company town of Kennecott five miles up the side of the Root Glacier.

While exploring the woods around McCarthy during my residency at the Wrangell Mountains Center, I came upon the historic locomotive train table. Overgrown with plants, I imagined a work of art using the steel rail which formed a 65' diameter circle. Using my printmaking tools, my desire is to scrape clean the lichen and plant life off the top of the rail and then burnish and polish it smooth. I then would like to size and gild it in copper leaf, so that a pure circle of copper glistens in the forest.