A journey through the ethereal art of Kara Taylor

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From large oil and gold leaf paintings exhibit, opening July 19, oil on wood, 22" by 38", 2015. — Art by Kara Taylor

At her first gallery opening of the season last Sunday, Kara Taylor exhibited 32 new works, featuring small mixed-media landscapes. What you cannot tell from initial inspection of the landscapes is that they began with photographic images taken in graveyards, which were then handpainted. Ms. Taylor says, “I’ve done these for the past six or seven years. I do a few a year, and people love them. So I decided this year to do a whole body of work of them, because I was in Hudson [N.Y.] and walking through these graveyards. The old stone is the best. I photographed about three different graveyards in Columbia County, and that’s what these [new pieces] are from, and some are from Chilmark.” For the viewer there is no way to tell that there are gravestones in the backgrounds.

Ms. Taylor walks over to one piece and says, “This one is kind of obvious.” But it appears as more of a cityscape in a snowstorm or a dream, looking from a distance toward one block from the corner. The entire series has a dreamlike quality, and is gorgeous, and will be on display at the gallery through July 15.
Ms. Taylor’s second show opening is July 19, and will feature large oil and gold leaf paintings. She has so far completed nine 22-inch by 38-inch paintings on wood. She says, “Being in the Hudson Valley really inspired this … The light there and the clouds are so amazing. I don’t even know what I’m doing. Things just come up. And then I think, ‘Oh, this is where this came from.’ I don’t know it at the time I’m doing it.” The new body of work is more organic, less vertical than many of her images, and has a sense of flow between sky and landscape. Ms. Taylor says, “It’s the storm series. There’s always a storm and it passes. And that’s part of the metaphor, the light coming through darkness.”

As for the the texture of the natural wood grain that she paints on, Ms. Taylor says, “I have always used the grain.” She points to leaving a small swathe of one piece unpainted, “like a Naples yellow color.” There are so many different ways to visually move through this group of landscapes, almost like a labyrinth. She explains, “I was thinking about mazes. A peaceful maze as opposed to feeling lost in a maze. A maze where you might not know where you are, but at least it’s beautiful, and you don’t have to know where you are going.”

Her final show of the summer will feature photomontage portraits, a series of 16 handpainted photographs that are waxed over; it opens on Sunday, August 16. Kara was given a family member’s bridal trousseau by her mother Kathy Sollitto to use in her work. Ms. Sollitto told her, “I think you can do something with this. It’s got to be in your work.” Ms. Taylor loved receiving the items, and used herself as her model, setting up a tripod to photograph. She said, “It takes me forever to get the shots that I want. It can be a very private process, and I don’t have to dictate to anybody what they have to do, I just do it myself. And it makes it more challenging. Most of these were done in the wintertime in my garden.”

The figures in Ms. Taylor’s pieces do not resemble portraits of her, because she achieves an everywoman quality, an anonymity that works in the dreamlike paintings and mixed-media works she has created. Mostly these figurative pieces hark back to times past, maybe 50 years ago, maybe a century or more. Looking at her figurative work is like taking a journey, like a snapshot from a dream.

Kara Taylor’s gallery receptions take place on Sundays from 5 to 8 pm at her gallery, 24 South Road, Chilmark. The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 to 5 pm. For more information, go to karataylorart.com, or call 508-332-8171.