Artist Spotlight: Taylor Smith

By Christopher Harrity

Originally published on Advocate.com March 08 2014 4:00 AM ET


American Hustle, 30" x 22"; charcoal and wood stain on paper

Indianapolis-based contemporary fine artist Taylor Smith’s work documents her interest in sexuality, the human figure, science, nature, analogue photography. and organic chemistry. Taylor creates medium- to large-scale paintings on linen, panel, and canvas, often working in oil, acrylic, transfer, charcoal, and at times, wine.

Taylor has exhibited nationally and internationally as well as having been a featured artist at the Florence Biennale in Italy. She is also the recent recipient of a Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship funded by the Eli Lilly Endowment. Her work has also been selected for several years running for inclusion in the Kinsey Institute Juried show, a prestigious annual selection of artworks relating to eroticism, the politics of sex and gender, and the human figure. While studying in Germany in the 1980s, Taylor participated in several art projects at the Berlin Wall, including one with the artist Keith Haring. Currently Taylor paints in her Indianapolis studio, but she travels frequently for inspiration. As part of her recent fellowship, she is planning an extended working visit to Germany and France to study with several leading artists so that she may produce a new body of work beginning in late 2014.


Chemical Abstract #35, 30" x 22"; acrylic, charcoal, and wine on paper

What do you hope to convey through your work?
I think ultimately I am hoping to leave my mark in this world. That fascinates me. Creativity, discovery, and technology fascinate me.

Within my work, I try to blend my own contemporary interpretation of abstraction with elements of traditional still life and portraiture. Mathematics, organic chemistry, mechanics, photography, and pop culture also play a role in my path from conception to completion. Much of my recent work explores the relationship between abstraction and the ordered world of still life and traditional portraiture. My love of the female form has also greatly informed my work in recent years. My intention lately has been to blend abstraction and traditional painting with elements of eroticism, chemistry, and mechanics to create an unexpected and moving experience. This work is my mark.


Duchess of Canterbury in Early Morning Light, 36" x 48"; oil, acrylic, wine, and charcoal on canvas

How would you describe your art?
I enjoy creating the Chemical Still Life series of work I have developed, because it is profoundly abstract and so starkly pairs science and art. To me, art and science are a beautiful yin and yang combination, but to many people it is one that is quite unexpected. There is a beauty in science, math, and chemistry which I feel pairs nicely with the softer, more subjective side of the arts. I also think the detail within the pieces tend to draw people in, and any time you can pull the viewer in it offers them an opportunity to draw their own conclusions and think more about art. That is a very good thing.

One evening in my studio I was working on a painting lying flat on the floor (which is how I often paint). I accidentally knocked a bottle of wine over next to it, which spilled and stained the canvas in a very beautiful and unique way. I began imagining ways to creatively use wine in my artworks, and over the years this has actually resulted in a very serendipitous relationship with several wineries in Napa Valley, Calif. The Mondavi family, which also owns the 150-year-old Charles Krug Winery, began collecting my work, and Peter Mondavi also featured one of my paintings he owns in a promotional video for the winery last fall. The winery not only owns many of my paintings, but it also sells my fine art prints in the Charles Krug tasting room. Over the next several years, I hope to have prints of my artwork available for sale in wineries across the USA as well as internationally.

I also love working with metallic pigments, particularly gold. I began painting a series of abstract landscape pieces several years ago, which were inspired by a trip I took to Asia. The rich golden light and wildflowers I recall from my time in Thailand truly made an impression on me. I have interpreted it into a very distinct series of work, which I feel is both calming and mysterious. Again, the texture and detail tend to draw people in and allow them to experience the feeling and vision I hope to share. They also change during the day as the light in a space changes and it reflects various levels of warmth from the golden tones. So many people share with me that these pieces bring them a peaceful feeling.

I love being an artist. I hope that people continue to feel passionate enough about my work to collect it. I hope to never do anything else. I think it would be fantastic to be 95 years old and still creating, still painting in my studio. Now, that’s a life!


Faster Pussycat! … Love, Love! 24" x 24"; oil, acrylic, and pencil on canvas

Tell us about the paintings you create involving women?
I often alternate between painting imagined self-portraits and portraits of those women I have had significant relationships with. In many of the works, I will obscure the face to draw the viewer in closer as they attempt to understand what is missing and fill in the empty spaces on their own. I also feel that painting the female figure more loosely allows for greater exploration, not only by myself but also on the part of the viewer. There are questions to be answered and the uncomfortable space creates an underlying tension, often a sexual tension, and that is really what I am hoping to achieve. Most of us experience that sexual tension when we are with someone who fascinates us. I want my paintings of women to fascinate and create emotion.

See more of Smith's work on her website and her Facebook page.


God Save the Queen, 30" x 22"; silkscreen and wood stain on paper


 How Soon is Now?  48" x 48"; oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas
Inhale to Your Heart's Content, 22"x30"; mixed media on paper


 Let Them Eat Cake, 48" x 48"; oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas


Looking Forward, 36" x 24"; oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas


Lucky Strike Me, Superman! 24" x 20"; silkscreen and wood stain on canvas


Lust for Kicks, 30" x 22", oil, enamel, and silkscreen on paper


Man vs. Machine: #200 Headstock, 42" x 42"; oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas


No Man Wants to Sex Me, 24" x 24"; mixed media with resin coating on panel


Portrait of a Woman with Chemical Reaction, 60" x 48", oil, acrylic, wine and charcoal on linen


Portrait of a Woman With Periodic Table of Elements, 48" x 48"; oil, acrylic, wine, and transfer on gold leaf


Prince of West Hollywood, 20" x 16"; charcoal and wood stain on linen


Six Gun, 24" x 36"; oil, acrylic, and wine on canvas


Study for Two Women, 22" x 30"; acrylic, charcoal, and wood stain on paper


 We Will Become Silhouettes, 36" x 24"; oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas
 

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