Galleries : Kara Taylor : Single Minded
Prominently featured on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, the Kara Taylor Fine Art Gallery is getting ready to enter its third season as a growing presence in the local art scene. Setting this space apart from other Island galleries is the fact that only one artist's work is featured here and - perhaps even more of an anomaly - that the artist herself is often on hand, answering questions or speaking about her work.
The main gallery is open and airy, with a small, crowded studio in the back where Ms. Taylor can be found working on her latest painting or collage. Ranging in theme from landscapes to abstract self-portraits to metaphysical musings, each of Ms. Taylor's pieces share a quiet, introspective component that lends the space an almost meditative feel.
While some artists might find the constant flow of summer traffic distracting, Ms. Taylor seems to thrive on the interactions she has with her customers, and she is even able to paint during business hours. "People will come back into the studio if they have questions," she says, sitting at a low wooden table covered with portfolios of her own photography - her latest project. "I'm not hanging over people. I hate when you go into a gallery and people are hanging around trying to sell you stuff."
To most people, the idea of running a gallery and being the primary producer of the art being sold is a daunting prospect. But for Ms. Taylor, an energetic young woman with dark eyes and a small frame, it was a natural evolution of her process.
She laughs and says, "People tell me that I'm a combination of right and left brain," referring to her ability to juggle the creative demands of being an artist with the logistics of running a business. "I don't really know anything different," she says, shrugging, "I've always wanted to work for myself."
And in some ways, she explains, it's easier this way. "From a business aspect, it keeps it simple. It's just me and my work." Still, she admits, wearing so many hats can be a challenge. "It's a lot of pressure to make the rent and keep painting."
While many gallery owners might put tremendous deliberation into selecting which pieces to hang where, or cultivating variety and depth from a group of artists, Ms. Taylor tends to let her creativity guide the exhibiting end of her operation.
"As I sell, I need to put more stuff up," she says simply. "I just put up whatever I paint."
The casual tone with which Ms. Taylor speaks about her commercial identity is quickly replaced by intensity when the discussion turns to her creative process and artistic philosophy.
As articulate as she is motivated, Ms. Taylor might be considered a writer's artist, using words like "timeless," "metaphysical," and "dream-like," to describe her work. She sees her paintings as exploring a level of "objective consciousness," which she describes as different from the subjective perspective from which we receive most of our information based on our cultural conditioning.
"It's all autobiographical," Ms. Taylor explains. "Even the landscapes. They're some place where I've been and I've been transcended by that space. Whether it's taking a walk on a full moon on that property," she says, pointing to a large painting of a field cloaked in midnight blues, "It has to move me in some way to make me want to paint it."
Gesturing towards another piece, this one featuring a woman with outstretched arms morphing into branches and crowned by a golden halo, Ms. Taylor describes her inspiration: "I saw this woman's face in New York City," she recalls, "And there was something in her that was other-worldly. I got all of these ideas just looking at her face."
The painting, overlaid in gold leaf and underscored in deep reds and oranges, is titled "A Certain Kind of Madonna," and is one of a series featuring the haloed woman. That first portrait led to others, which ultimately veered off into an exploration of childhood and feelings of safety and comfort. "I always just paint my ideas," she says. "I guess that's the artist's curse: You're working through things."
She smiles. "I'm kind of all over the place right now," she says, noting the variety of subject matter of the work staring down at her as she glances around the space. "When I look around, I can see a continuum. But as I grow and change, my work grows and changes." She speaks with the confidence of someone who feels her creative stride. "If it ever stops changing, that's when I'll be worried."
Alexandra Bullen is a frequent contributor to The Times.