This is my Saturday morning.
Another painting started. Another finished and on the wall.
This is what I do.
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.
Kewpie Culture, charcoal and oil pastels on paper.
To interpret my individual culture, this was a bit of a challenge. This was the final assignment for a drawing class last year. Although my family heritage was mentioned to me as a child, it was not a major influence. My upbringing did not include much tradition from a specific culture. The biggest thing that molded me was the chaotic feminine energy I was surrounded by–my mother and grandmother and this dysfunctional triangular relationship. So instead of making my final drawing about that, I chose to draw something that makes me happy, something I want to look at, something other people might enjoy as well.
Kewpie dolls really turn me on. I discovered this sweet little doll in a consignment shop last year and immediately fell in love with her but the price was astounding, really…150 bucks! And her entire painted surface is completely chipping off. I visit her sometimes. Even though her price has been reduced, she still sits there, in a glass case, hidden behind some piece of hideous consignment furniture, hiding and waiting for me to come up with the cash–bail to spring her from the bondages of retail.
This drawing is of a kewpie doll on a fluffy, happy cloud floating over a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood with various objects encircling her head. The drawing represents me transcending the mass-marketed, consumerist society that I previously thought I needed to conform to. I now intentionally influence myself with cultural items that I choose–art/painting, drawing, literature, Buddhism, the heart, music, and nature. I surround myself with a combination of cultural elements that bring me joy.
Buddhism, when revealed to me, made perfect sense. The messages have been packaged and repackaged in various ways over many years. My current favorite is Alan Watts. I know, he existed years ago, inspiring a turned-on hippy generation, but his relaxed attitude and simple down-to-earth delivery of ideas calms me, helps me make sense of things. I like to listen to Alan Watts recordings while I paint. On days that music with lyrics only adds to the swirl of ideas in my head, Watts helps me focus.
At the beginning of the my independent study in painting this semester I was asking myself: What do I want to paint now? What do I want to say? Do I want to paint a variety of subject matter, maybe a landscape and a self portrait, things I don’t typically paint?
While I stressed about subject matter, my wise professor, Roy Nydorf, told me, “Just be painting; all the other questions will take care of themselves.”
I decided I wanted to illuminate little, overlooked objects, vintage toys, random things. I got lost in the details of the things I was painting and the relationships, or possible interactions between the items.
While I enjoyed the details and the suggested narratives, I also enjoyed just what I could do with paint now. I started painting with the idea that it didn’t matter so much what I was painting as how I was painting it.
As I combined various objects and painted them, stories began to form, memories were evoked. I thought about specific memories and how to reproduce them in paint and what viewers might see, what they would identify with, and how my vague suggested memories might ignite the viewer’s personal memories. I explored the relationship between vision and memory and experience and how these things shape how we see the world, the space or discrepancy between what we see and what we remember, and the pictures in our minds versus the outside world’s images and how they can spark our memories.
So, this body of work turned into combinations of vintage toys in secret little environments, sometimes little pockets in nature, evoking nostalgia and wonder. I found that viewers would look, and smile and/or laugh and say things like: “Wow. That’s weird!” and “I had one of those when I was a kid!” and “You and your creepy dolls!”
I wondered about the role of nostalgia in my work.
What is evoked for you?
I love to paint objects. The still life paintings I create for myself include antique and vintage, sometimes kitsch, sometimes creepy, sometimes random, items. These are the things I love to look at, the things I collect and surround myself with. On canvas, I surround them with abstract elements, exploring personal connotations and meanings of the objects and their history.
My love of things, arranging them, lighting them in a way that highlights the intricacies of the item, creating shadows that interest, that could capture some other mystery, makes me also want to capture other peoples’ objects and immortalize them in oil paint. Do you own a cherished heirloom item or items that you’d like to share with other members of your family? All of you can’t have the same clock on your mantel, or your grandmother’s babydoll on your shelf. I could compose these items in a significant and sentimental commissioned work just for you! So someone in your family can own the cherished object and someone else can display the unique painting of it.
This past summer I painted for my step father. I looked around his house and selected items that said “Moe.” A metronome, an hour glass, his grandfather’s pocket watch, his mala beads, I combined these things with a small clay vase of fresh roses in rich red to add the vibrancy of life. And a bug crawls up the front of the table, just for fun. I call this painting Time for Moe.
A misappropriated menagerie of items: a puppet, a porcelain doll, a sewing box, a brass bell, an iron parrot – remnants of my childhood where dysfunction is the family heirloom. These objects are combined with abstract elements, integrating still life and abstract expression, recreating childhood scenarios.
I work on both the abstract and the representational alternately in order to help them harmonize, to create a transition between these elements that is both convincing and dysfunctional. I invent still life environments on the canvas, emphasizing light and shadow, with disjointed plains, to foster feelings of dissociation. Abstracted items convey a lack of object constancy. Are these environments real? Are people or objects consistent, trustworthy, reliable? …Questions a small child ponders while learning to navigate in the world and realize their place within it.
These works encourage you to question the validity of your own perceptions, and also to reminisce. Whimsical clowns and a coquettish kewpie doll instill a sense of childish playfulness, asserting that there is still good among the wreckage.
Conjuring the melancholy of past desires, embers long grown cold, 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 haunt me, taunt me, remind me of what slipped through my hands by a rope thrown over a metal beam, pulled taut, constricting breath, a magnificent life no more. They are the last vestige of stories lost once voice is stilled. https://guilford.digication.com/kellytaylor/Thesis_Work/published