Bodies in the Basement – A Short Story

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Cloudy, damp, windy October day–it’s a great day to read this spooky story by M. Taggart. Enjoy!


Written by M. Taggart 10/17/14

Fiction: A Halloween style tale.

Copyright 2014 by Matt Taggart, aka -M. Taggart

Bodies in the Basement

It was a crisp, damp, October night.

“When we get to the Church I’ll go down first.” Colin was thinking of the moment when both he and Aaron would be standing at the top of the basement stairs peering down into the darkness.

The old stone Church was perched at the top of the largest hill on the prep school’s campus. Colin’s parents were professors at the school and their house was on campus grounds. They’d been waiting for Colin’s parents to fall asleep upstairs.  Both boys were comfortable in their sleeping bags on the screened in porch. The lights had been turned out an hour ago and Colin felt it was time to slip into the night.

They unzipped their sleeping bags without noise. Colin gave Aaron…

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I’m One of Those Rare Freaks–an Artist with a Business Sense!

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egg-KellyLTaylor copy

I’m currently in the midst of a major search, a sometimes seemingly impossible quest. I’m looking to invest my time and energy in a job, one that will supplement my art career, ideally in arts administration/management, or with a worthwhile organization where I won’t feel like I’m selling my soul to the devil each time I punch in. I’m wondering, “Where will I ‘fit in’?”

One of the prevalent interview questions is, “Why do you want to work at this job/company?” (I suppose they would get a lot of people simply applying, without first seriously considering if they could spend such a significant chunk of their life at a particular company.) I carefully consider each job opening and whether I’m qualified and if I might fit in. When the answer is yes, I apply. I don’t waste anyone’s time, including mine.

I have extensive experience, creativity, and resourcefulness from years working with various start-up companies and artist collaboratives–specializing in making something great out of next to nothing! I wouldn’t squander this talent on something meaningless.

Each line, word, punctuation on my resume has been carefully considered. My resume is crafted so it can be perused quickly, with organized bullet points and a minimum of superfluous text, so the reader can get a solid idea of who I am and what I’m capable of. (So it’s rewarding when a prospective employer actually reads it.)

It looks like I’m properly prepared for my job search; I’ve done everything the career search experts suggest. So, it’s one more day off to the world of internet job searching, networking, and brainstorming about alternate job options that my talents and skills may match. “Searching for a job is a job in itself,” they say, and for good reason. And in between these efforts I’m painting and happily preparing for my next exhibit.

A Luminous Pause–A Journey Through Life and Death and Life

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The Three Graces, oil on canvas

I’m having so much fun meeting and working with the folks at the Friends Homes here in Greensboro. It’s a retirement community, based on Quaker principles, full of the coolest retired professors, artists, and authors, most still active in their crafts. As the administrator joked about me being a new resident, I thought of how nice it would be to live there.

When I was asked to do a show at Friends Homes, I was surprised at the work that was chosen. Shame on me for assuming our retired friends would want to see typical soft impressionist landscapes and simple still life paintings. After previously hearing such feedback as: “Your work is too dark; I could never sell that.” and “Oh, That’s kinda crazy…” I’m always surprised when my work is embraced.

As we curated my paintings, a few people examined my work as they walked by, some even laughed, as if they got my private jokes. (Very Cool!) When I stepped back and looked at the combination of paintings that were chosen–some darker, brooding expressionist abstracts, along with some still life paintings from my thesis work regarding Jeff’s suicide, and some lighter abstracts and still life paintings from when things started easing up–I realized this combination of works comprise a journey, through life and death and life.

may 2012 - Kelly L TaylorThis is work completed in May of 2012

I wonder why some people don’t see the light in my work; it’s always there, like when you look up at a cloudy sky and you know, you feel, the blue sky and the sunshine behind the clouds.

The opening reception for the Friends Homes show, A Luminous Pause, will be on the afternoon of Friday, October 2nd when I’ll do a short talk and present my artist statement for the show which goes like this:

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

                                                                                                                                               ― C.G. Jung

I make paintings–curious objects combined with abstract elements, emphasized by light and shadow. This collection represents a story of great scope, of life and death, a journey through dark grief, while looking toward the light.

Conjuring the melancholy of past desires, abandoned objects ask me to paint them shadowed by the lives of the people who loved and left them. Embodying triumph and tragedy, the objects are all that’s left of those who have gone on. They remind me of what slipped through my hands, a magnificent life no more. They are the last vestige of stories lost once voice is stilled.

Some things just make me smile and beg me to play, like wooden dolls, a vintage firetruck, and a telephone you can’t keep your hands off the dial. I paint those, too.

Navigating the chaotic currents of life, I reach for acceptance, move forward while learning to embrace the mystery of reality, the uncontrollable, the inevitable, and the joyous.


Hello? oil on canvas

Patience and Process and Painting with Oils

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replication-KellyLTaylor copy          samsara - Kelly L Taylor

They say you need patience to paint with oils. “Oh, oils are hard,” they say. “You need to use dangerous chemicals. It takes too long to dry. It’s easy to turn it all into mud.” It’s all worth it to me. I start a painting, set it aside, let it dry some, work on an alternate painting, go back to the first one…

The first time I smoothed oil paint on a canvas it felt so natural to me; Previously I had been working so hard (with various mediums, water, utensils, etc.) to make acrylic paints do what oil paints do naturally. I found a medium I truly loved to work in. It felt so good. I wondered why I waited so long to try oils. Why had I been intimidated by something new?

My abstract process consisted of layers and layers of paint mixed with various amounts of cold wax medium, adding, scraping off, revealing things beneath, getting lost in the magic that happens in texture and color interactions, light and shadow. But somewhere around the middle of a painting it would start to feel like hell. The painting would come to a stage where it just looked and felt horrible. Each time I had to remind my self “This is your process, remember? Move through it. Just keep working.” And eventually I would come out the other side feeling good about the painting, loving what was happening on the canvas.

Metaphor for life? For the inevitable darkness we need to trudge through sometimes? Maybe that’s why I’m good at this painting thing. I’m not sure where I got the courage to face the scary stuff, to know I needed to go straight through it, to confront it, to keep reaching toward the light, in order to persevere.

appartition-Kelly L Taylor

Seemingly Timeless Stretches

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still life with aligator headDETAIL - Kelly L Taylor copy

Do you ever get lost in the details, with the devil, just enjoying the view,

relishing the tiny bits that before somehow went unnoticed?

How did such wonder fail to beguile you before? A passage, a moment, a tiny arcane portion of something…




These are details from some of my paintings. An artist’s eye view. See where I get lost for seemingly timeless stretches.


It’s OK. They’re Artists!

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The adventures of an artist–the continuing and ever surprising saga of trying to exist in a world that doesn’t quite understand us…


One summer day Jeff and I had taken a job building a fence at the home of a woman I knew. (Jeff could build and fix just about anything, so we were perpetually looking for odd jobs to supplement our income.) After we met with my friend, discussed what she needed and agreed on a price, we showed up as planned to begin work. The homeowner was going to be at work that day and had directed us to just set up in the backyard and go ahead and get started. Shortly after, an alarmed-looking woman came trudging down the driveway, talking on her phone. She was the next door neighbor calling the homeowner to report that there was something suspicious going on in her backyard. We were friendly and introduced ourselves and chatted a bit, of course. After she interrogated us and looked around at our tools, etc. she seemed assured that we were not burglars and she went off on her way.

Later my friend called me to tell me her side of the amusing story. Here is the conversation she had with Mrs. Conservative Nosey Neighbor who called her at work to report the “disturbance” in her backyard:

Nosey Neighbor: Are you aware that there are people in your yard?! There’s a guy covered with tattoos and a woman in a black halter top! (I can assure you I was NOT wearing a “halter top” it being 2011 and all. It was a tank top; it was summer! And we didn’t rumble in on a Harley but even if we did…)

Homeowner: Oh! It’s OK…They’re Artists! We hired them to build a fence for us.

Nosey Neighbor: You hired artists to build a fence?! Are you sure they’ll get it straight?

Homeowner: (trying not to laugh audibly) Yes, I think they’ll do just fine.

Here are the scary-looking culprits:


This was Jeff, a skilled blacksmith, wood-worker, sculptor, and jeweler who graduated with a BFA summa cum laude and me a realist painter. And yes, we did get the fence straight.

a thing recognizable

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Day 2. I like them at the beginning. Loose. Full of possibilities. Quickly becoming a thing recognizable.

This is my world.

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This is my Saturday morning.

Another painting started. Another finished and on the wall.

This is what I do.

Jeff, It’s been three years

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The Brief Madness of Bliss - Kelly L Taylor

It’s been over three years. You’ve been dead for longer than I knew you now. There is still this raw piece of my heart, this hurt that I work to keep buried, but that sometimes surfaces unexpectedly. I try to keep it secret, thinking that nobody wants to hear about you, that part of “moving on” and healing is to not talk about you, worried that I’ll make my current boyfriend feel jealous, scared of making people feel sad, or making people think I’m wallowing in grief or using it all selfishly just to get attention. But it’s there, always, on the outskirts, sometimes appearing again in my artwork. I guess it always will be. When those images of you flash back I try to bury them again, hoping it doesn’t show on my face. What is a healthy way to keep someone who’s dead in your heart? How much should one reminisce, honor, worship the dead? How does one navigate how much to let go of and how much to cherish still? I guess it depends on how important they were in life. You were a shining wonderful thing in my life, the answer to what I always looked for; I fucking adored you! One minute you were alive, loving me, and then I found you hanging there, a light extinguished.

This painting is called The Brief Madness of Bliss, part of my thesis work which I dedicated to dealing with my grief associated with my fiance, Jeff Taylor’s, suicide.

I want to paint your things

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wall montage

For years I’ve painted things, my things – objects I’ve collected and inherited, positioned in an eccentric contrivance or a more conventional arrangement, sometimes nestled among abstract expressionist elements. Monumental objects that require immortalization as well as small almost incidental items that collected dust on a grandmother’s shelf for ages.

Now I’d like to combine my passion and my need to support myself. I’m available for commissions (various sizes and prices to fit your needs.) Send me a photo of your cherished, heirloom, beloved, item and I can reproduce it in paint so you can display an oil paint reproduction of your item next to the beloved item, or split up the heirloom and it’s intricate reproduction so you can keep one and your ever-squabbling sibling can keep the other, allowing everyone to enjoy said heirloom.

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