It has been a long time coming. Once complete, the massive steel shell that currently frames the Westside Trail will provide the setting for hundreds of carefully woven nylon cables painted with ultraviolet paint. By day, it will look sort of like an overhead trellis of white rope. At dusk, the braids will transform with the help of black lights into a neon glowing structure—an ephemeral apparition of what Atlanta’s futuristic transit system could one day be. Thus, will be the latest public art installation by Atlanta-based conceptual artist Megan Mosholder, Terminus II.
“I try to make site-specific work that taps into the history of a place,” explains Mosholder, who has built large-scale installations in Australia, Europe, Asia and the U.S. “Making art is about problem solving. It’s taking an idea and finding out how to make it work. That’s one of the things I love about my job.”
Based off a previous installation she did for the Hambidge Art Auction and Performance Gala at the Goat Farm Arts Center, Terminus II will be an immersive experience on the Atlanta BeltLine that references Atlanta’s railroad past and nods to the New York City subway tunnels.
Affable, warm, driven, Mosholder doesn’t like to be the center of attention, yet she speaks easily about her work and the defining moments of her life and career.
Formally trained as a painter at Savannah College of Art and Design, Mosholder confesses that she was an arrogant student, firmly believing that she could and would “reinvent how to paint” to the frustration of her incredulous professors. It was a landmark opportunity to work with international artist Teresita Fernandez, who she met in France and later worked with in Brooklyn, that forever redirected Mosholder’s practice.
“She blew up my world, turning me to large, sites-specific installations.”
Excited to have found something she gelled with, Megan combined her fascination with glow-in-the-dark with large, linear string and nail sculptures, experimenting with painting on string as a more affordable way to create the desired effects to her site-specific work.
“I’m interested in the temporal quality of ultraviolet paint, which glows under black light. I love the temporal transition of light, and by employing techniques as a painter, simple white rope becomes sculpture constructed with neon linear elements. In essence, by hand painting string, I did reinvent painting.”
Mosholder was juggling numerous plates—moving in with her parents in Marietta, GA after an artist fellowship at Tulsa University, a recent show in Brooklyn, a new adjunct professorship at Kennesaw State University, and several art projects, including the installation of Terminus II— when a devastating car accident on September 5, 2018 left her fighting for her life. Severely burned on 60% of her body with partial paralysis to her damaged legs and feet, the prognosis was bad, and doctors didn’t think she was going to make it.
“I was a mess. I had trouble holding a pen.”
Showered with love and support from family, friends, and the artist community, Mosholder underwent 18 surgeries and spent 145 days in the hospital.
“Part of what brought me back was my work. I come from working people. I believe in work. The difference between who is and who is not an artist: a true artist cannot not work.”
Not even a year later, with still more surgeries on the horizon, the fiercely determined artist was back in the studio with the help of a “really good group of assistants” without whom, she’d “be screwed.” Her first large-scale installation post-accident, Trial By Fire, was installed at MINT Gallery in 2019. Unusually autobiographical, the artwork referenced the accident using charred wood, ash, and painted string. Subsequent installations for Dashboard in Woodruff Park and Living Walls at PagerDuty have followed.
Almost two years since Terminus II was slotted for installation, Mosholder is anxious to move forward and finally complete the artwork as she also juggles the art classes she teaches and the various projects she’s managing, including a second commission by Google.
“The West End is a very interesting neighborhood for a variety of reasons,” says the artist of her former neighborhood. “Treating this piece as a living document, I’m hoping to build something that is interesting that people want to take care of. The trick is to get people to slow down, look, and think about it.”
Terminus II will be a culmination of her previous projects as well as her first completely fabricated public art piece since the accident. It is also an important step forward in her career as she pursues future outdoor public art sculpture opportunities.
“It means everything to me right now, and I can’t wait to get out there.”