death

Wrought Not Bought

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Wrought Not Bought by Jeff Taylor

Once there was a piano. It was old and worn, with chipped paint and panels hanging off its hinges. It looked like it had been loved and played for years.

It was donated to the United Arts Council in Greensboro, NC, along with several other pianos. The Arts Council came up with this great idea to have local artists embellish the pianos with their own artwork, each piano unique to the artist. Then the pianos would be auctioned off as part of the first 17 Days festival to promote the arts in the Triad, NC area in October 2012.

The pianos were delivered to Lyndon Street Artworks, an big ancient warehouse which housed artist studios and a gallery, a place full of working artists, artwork in various stages of completion, and a variety of materials and things just waiting to find themselves into new works of art. The pianos could have easily been lost among all the other stuff. They were wheeled into one of the vacant studio spaces and there they sat on casters for a short time. Each of them old and worn, but each of them seeming to shine, to call out to the artists, to entice them with their potential.

Jeff Taylor was one of the artists who worked at Lyndon Street. He had a studio there full of various bits and baubles, pieces of material, objects…all sorts of things that would comprise the wondrous things he created.

Jeff walked past these old pianos each day on his way to his studio. He told me about the plans for these pianos and said he wasn’t going to bother doing one, he was working on other stuff. One of the pianos in particular must have called to him and convinced him to work on it. So he decided he’d be a part of the project.

I was delighted. It was so much fun watching (and documenting) the process. It was so fantastic to see him immersed in this work, doing what he loved – shaping red hot metal into beautiful spirals and swirls. A true blacksmith at heart, each precise bang on the metal sounded like a musical note. I watched beautiful things appear that were once just scraps of metal.

When the piano was finished Jeff named it “Wrought Not Bought” and it went on display at Elsewhere in Greensboro before being auctioned off. The piano found a home where it could be loved and played again. Where it could stand proudly in a prominent place among the hustle and bustle of a loving family with a young boy who would play it.

…Fast forward seven months or so…

Shortly after Jeff’s death in May 2012, in my compulsion to view and/or collect and cherish everything Jeff ever made, I somehow found the contact info for the person who purchased the piano. I emailed her and asked her to please consider me if and when they ever decided to replace the piano with a new one and sell this one. She agreed to contact me.

…Fast forward again… Five or so years go by and I receive a text message out of the blue. It’s someone asking if mine is the correct phone number. They’re looking for someone named Kelly de Silva. It’s about a piano.

I gasped! And then quickly replied…

It was the woman who purchased Jeff’s piano in the auction. She said they were buying a new piano and asked if I was interested in Jeff’s piano! I quickly said yes and we worked out all the details. And then a day later I had this beautiful piano in my living room.

A couple of the nicest guys moved it into my house. (They graciously offered to move it for free after hearing the piano’s story.) After wrestling it up the stairs, they placed it in the perfect spot. Then one of them played me a tune on it – a jaunty happy honkey tonk type song. It was great to have my little house filled with music!

After they left I dusted the piano and ran my hands along all of the curves of metal that Jeff had created with the hands that I loved so much. I had almost forgotten just how beautiful his work was!

Now whenever I look at it I feel so grateful and so lucky that it came back to me! What a truly sweet and wonderful thing for that woman to have done – to remember me and actually reach out to me when the time came for them to make room for a new piano. My heart overflows.

Here’s the process and the little journey of this wondrous work of art…

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Whoosh….

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Sometimes it still hits me. Like out of nowhere. I think of him, I feel him. My heart stops for a second. I remember he’s gone.

Five years later and still.

I wonder if that will ever stop. But I don’t really want it to.

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Jeff Taylor, maker of wondrous things, May 2012

The shirt, in process

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The shirt. His shirt. The shirt he wore the first time I laid eyes on him. The time I fell madly in love with him, when I felt as if I’d found something I’d been looking for all my life. When I stopped looking and it walked in the door of the gallery with a big warm smile, carrying a newly finished sculpture. I think I stopped breathing

 

The shirt in process-KellyLTaylor

 

the jacket

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He was beautiful and brilliant and funny. That jacket still feels like him. Even though it’s gone through the wash. I can’t wear it. It feels too heavy.

 

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Jacket, oil on canvas, life-sized

 

119 in Dog Years

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Ever had that faithful friend who was so in-tune with your feelings, the quiet companion who just watched you, followed you around, sat by you if you were feeling bad, was ever-ready to join in on your playful mood. That was Shep – a black lab/shepherd mix we found as a puppy.

Someone had dumped him and three puppy siblings out in the country. They were living in a drain pipe next to the railroad tracks. That was almost seventeen years ago.

Fox and I drove by and saw them. I immediately pulled the car over and two of the puppies bounded over to see me. Shep was a little more shy. And then the last puppy was too scared to even come out of the drain pipe. We had to come back later with something to bribe her out with.

We took the four puppies home and immediately fell in love, knowing we couldn’t possibly keep all four! Shep was the one who followed Fox around. Fox, my son, was almost two years old at the time and he and Shep were pretty close in size. Shep was the one who chose us. And we fell in love with his warm brown eyes and his temperament  – playful but not too wild, precocious but not too troublesome, attentive, and so darn sweet.

Shep and the boys quickly became inseparable. All three would lay on the carpet in the living room watching cartoons. Shep learned to tell time by Nathan’s comings and goings – the early morning rush to the school bus and the afternoon walk down the street back home after school. Shep would watch by the window and always greeted us at the door when we came home. He was a constant presence, a comfort. For almost seventeen years.

Shep was a member of the family. And yesterday we sat with him as a family and said goodbye. His eyes now old and slightly cloudy, his muzzle gray, we talked to him and petted him while he quietly slipped away.

Now there’s a gapping whole where he once occupied our lives. Rationally, we know that dogs can’t live forever. He was 119 in dog years! But our hearts are broken.

Farewell, Shep.

Replication – The Moth

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I’m sitting here at Delurk, the artist-run gallery in Winston-Salem, NC working my Sunday afternoon shift. As I look at this painting of mine hanging on the off-white brick wall, bathed in warm light, I think about how it came to be.

I was at a place where I was unsure of my palette, and what textures I wanted to paint next. I was in the studio on a warm spring morning, just messing around with paint, when Jeff walked in, on his way back in from having a cigarette out on the loading doc, cradling something in his hands. He held it out to me and said, “Look what I brought you…!”

I peered into his outstretched hands. It was a moth, with soft powdery wings of various browns and beiges, slow, on the verge of death, too tired to fly away. I gasped at the beauty of it. He gingerly set it on my table next to my easel, patiently waiting while it stepped off his fingers and onto the edge of a book.

THE moth

I was mesmerized; It was gorgeous! I studied the lines, the colors, the textures–warm beige fading into dark dark browns and dots of soft powdery white. I stepped up to my easel and palette and began mixing the colors I saw on the moth. I applied them to the canvas, smoothing and blending, and scraping off at times. 

replication in process- kellyltaylor

The next morning the moth was dead and gone when we arrived at the studio but I continued working on the painting that was inspired by this beautiful, magical creature and the wonderful man who brought it to me.

“I think it’s done,” Jeff declared a couple weeks later when I stepped back to evaluate my work.

It was May of 2012. It was the last painting I did before Jeff’s death.

That spring and summer I saw more moths than I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was like they came to visit me silently in our studio, sent there magically somehow by Jeff to let me know that everything was going to be all right.

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