Sightlines, Incidents, and Echoes: Q+A with Erik Waterkotte

By Hannah Caddell

Erik Waterkotte spent his Summer 2015 Affiliate Artist residency creating works examining the architectural imprints of McColl Center. Sightlines, Incidents, and Echoes is an exhibition of artwork created from his research, experimentation, and visual analysis of our space will be exhibited on the first floor of our gallery from September 18, 2015 – January 2, 2016.

McColl Center: Can you tell us about the name Sightlines, Incidents, and Echoes that you chose for this particular body of work?

Erik Waterkotte: ‘Sightlines’ is a hypothetical line from someone's eye to what is seen. I was inspired by the building formations in the space – the bricks, the arches, even the suspension beams – so I made imprints of them for use in the work. 

As far as ‘Echoes,’ I feel that architectural spaces can be vessels for memory and that those memories echo and reverberate in those spaces. 

Can you talk about the use of texture in these pieces? 

I think that you can see the history and lineage in the textures of the building. For me, part of the draw to a space like McColl Center, aside from the inside of the building and layout of the space, is the different surfaces and overlapping texture, the kinds of marks and history that were in the walls. 

Mescolato con il Fumo I (2015), mixed-media on cut paper, 58 X 42 inches

I did rubbings and casts from the walls in order to copy the textures in actual graphic form through my printmaking. I had to do some creative problem-solving to get those textures onto the paper with collage.

These works have more use of three-dimensional blueprints than the work you displayed during your residency. Where do you think that shift in architectural depictions originated?

While not present in much of my recent work, the pieces I did in graduate school and immediately after referenced a lot of architectural schematics. 

In the case of this project, since I was able to get access to the original plans of architect J. M. McMichael, I wanted to use some of my former techniques and present architectural plans and schematics as visualization for possible spaces. Even though it’s a two-dimensional graphic, people often legitimize architectural schematics and maquettes as documents of actual spaces. 

Arches & Elevations of the Synod III (2015), collagraph, foiling, and chine-colle, 32 x 42 inches

Where did the words that you’ve included in some of these prints come from?

Part of Sightlines, Incidents, and Echoes is a series of three drawings that coincide with the schematic prints. They’re drawings that were inspired by the text that I collected in my research about the building and the project. I collaged together the history of the building as well as notes from other sources, including Dr. Dan Morrill’s 1985 historical landmark status notes on the building. I wanted to create a chronology, to be able to show a kind of timeline but make it artwork instead of a utilitarian sequence. 

We Build Within, Stone on Stone I (2015), ink on mylar, 32 x 42 inches

Will you expand on how humans construct spaces that reflect their beliefs?

One of the things I’m fascinated by is idea that we as human beings have constructed spaces to reflect ideologies – churches, institutions, even college campuses – so we house our beliefs in these physical structures. 

McColl Center’s space started out formally as an Associate Reform Presbyterian Church. There was a particular belief that was housed there. Even as an abandoned space it became a temporary homeless shelter, so that’s another ideology. Now it serves as a contemporary art space. It’s housed these different beliefs and has transformed the space each times to reflect the evolving ideologies. 

If it was still just a church I don’t think it would be as fascinating to me or to the public.


Sightlines, Incidents, and Echoes opens on September 18, 2015 and is on view until January 2, 2016 at McColl Center for Art + Innovation. An Open House will take place on Friday, September 18, 2015 from 6-9 PM.

Learn more about the diverse influences that informed the upbringing of digital artist and mixed media printmaker Erik Waterkotte.