Kara Taylor’s latest show provides a new look at the artist

Artist Kara Taylor and wooden boat builder Ross Gannon discuss one of the paintings at the show opening. — Photo by Susan Safford

With her latest show, Poetry in Paint, artist Kara Taylor has expressed herself with characteristic dreamy introspection, in both imagery and verse. The 20 works featured in what is perhaps her most intimate show to date include enhanced photos of the artist and short poems embossed into the wax coating of the encaustic surfaces.

“Everything in my work is always so personal for me,” Ms. Taylor said, “I’m not afraid to air my dirty laundry.”

She said that revealing herself to her audience has been easier for her to do with a brush than a pen. “I feel I can hide behind paints, but I can’t hide behind words,” she said. “Putting it out there is so exposing. It’s a challenge I can overcome. It’s freeing.”

The poems were drawn from Ms. Taylor’s creative output of many years, “I had journals upon journals,” she said.

The visual work was created around the writing. The subject of each of the mixed media pieces is the artist. Using a tripod and a self-timer, Ms. Taylor shot herself in a variety of costumes and poses and then incorporated these images — often blurred or distorted in some way — into wonderfully expressive works of art. Ms. Taylor, as her own model, is almost never recognizable. She is strictly the representative figure in the works which combine oil painting, photo montages, and encaustics (painting with colored wax).

The subtitle of the current show is, Reflections on Freedom and Confinement, and the work is divided into two separate series. In the front area of the gallery, large pieces feature Ms. Taylor’s characteristic dreamlike landscapes, as well as multi-patterned interiors. The words, stamped laboriously letter by letter with antique typeset pegs, are an unobtrusive part of the design. The lettering with variations in the depth and integrity of the embossing, blends seamlessly with the other montage design elements.

In one piece, titled Native Ceremony, the artist, in a simple white nightgown is seen in multiple images dancing among the trees in a hazy woodland setting. With the tree trunks and branches visible through the translucent figures, the dancers are wood spirits.

Spirituality expressed in a variety of ways is an integral part of Ms. Taylor’s work. Another of the “Freedom” pictures features a multi-armed Shiva-like deity. Seated on a table straddling a stack of religious texts, the figure’s legs are posed seductively in black lace stockings and red high heels. The multiple hands display a variety of objects — a globe, a shell, a wooden sword, a wine goblet and a mask held in front of the face. Called The Sacred and the Profane, the piece is a striking comment on religion and morality, a theme which Ms. Taylor has explored before and addresses more boldly in the second part of the show.

The smaller, “Confinement,” pictures feature figures dressed in burkas. Ms. Taylor was inspired to create this series by the death of journalist Marie Colvin who was killed while covering the Syrian uprising. Ms. Taylor had met Ms. Colvin a number of times and was impressed with her courage. “She was very brave and really committed to letting people know what was going on.” Ms. Colvin and a French photographer had passed into a restricted area when they were killed by a bomb earlier this year.

“She knew at one point that she would have a short life,” said Ms. Taylor, “When you do that kind of work you never know if you’re going to come out alive.

“I became intrigued with the conflicts in the Middle East and the atrocities that are going on there. And women being confined by a cultural history that’s still going on in this day and age.”

To create the Confinement pieces, Ms. Taylor took a series of photos of herself clad in a burka which, she said, “seems so oppressive to me — spiritually, sexually and in all these different ways.”

The burka images are used against a variety of backdrops. Of the image “Cease Fire,” Ms. Taylor said, “She’s showing her leg almost as a statement. There’s a halo around her head as a protection against these war zones.”

The show also includes two three-dimensional mixed media constructs with dangling objects. One called Parts to a Greater Universe features a spoked wheel, scraps from chemistry and anatomy books and topographical maps with pages from various religious texts representing “the spiritual part of our being.”

Poetry in Paint is a bit of a departure from her signature themes of Vineyard fields and trees. She said that she will return to her large format landscape work after she moves from her Main Street gallery space to a new Vineyard Haven location early next year.

Of the current figurative series, Ms. Taylor said, “This work is more personal. I think I’ve gotten it out of my system a little bit.”