You may think of Kate Taylor as the singing sister in the musical Taylor family, sibling to Hugh, Livingston, and James. Or you may know Kate’s colorful jewelry, designed with intricate craftsmanship, inspired by natural imagery and resources. Then there’s Kate, one of the gals featured in Paul Lazes’ photography project “Tough Chicks on Martha’s Vineyard: Strong Women Who Strengthen Our Lives.” But you probably won’t think Kate Taylor, painter.
You’ll want to change your understanding of Kate’s accomplishments and check out her oils on canvas at the Chilmark branch of the Martha’s Vineyard Bank, opening Friday, July 19. Kate’s a creative soul, with a deep understanding of what it takes to bring forth unique work. Often that can mean a healthy combination of confidence and humility. About taking on a solo exhibit, Kate herself says, “I decided impulsively, impetuously, brazenly, to do a show on my own this year. This is a first for me.”
Which brings us to Kate’s description of her start as a painter: “It was 2011, and an amazing landscape painter friend of one of my brothers came to stay nearby to paint. We met for tea, and she asked if I wanted to come paint with her. I told her several times there was no way I was going to face a blank canvas. She kept pressing, and I acquiesced. She set me up with easel, canvas, and paints. Turns out it was fun! There’s a lesson there.”
You can see the fun in her paintings, which are vibrant, filled with movement, color, and an invitation to come inside the painting because something is happening there. Like her jewelry, she uses the sights around her, painting outdoors, otherwise known as plein air.
Anyone who makes jewelry is used to spending plenty of time alone, constructing bits and pieces into wearable art. True also is the individual nature of painting, just a different medium. As a contrast to solo activity, Kate’s a core member of Aire MV. The group gets together at a specific site, for a specific length of time, and, you guessed it, they paint: an interesting way to make a group activity out of what is essentially a solitary endeavor.
Kate’s musical identity has some of the same solo-versus-ensemble contrasts, with Kate and her siblings all drawn to music. Encouraged by their parents, there were lessons, and plenty of musicmaking, including creating their own tunes and impromptu singing sessions of gospel, R&B, oldtime fiddle, and folk. As a generation, music was a means of communication and politics during the time of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, led by iconic folk heroes Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez. The Taylor clan was there, singing, each in their own way. Kate released her debut album, “Sister Kate,” in 1971.
Mixing it up has come naturally to Kate. Along with her ongoing jewelrymaking and her painting, Kate’s performing with two other guitar-playing Island gals, Rose Guerin and Jemima James, harmonizing to beat the band. There’s something really lovely about three-part harmony sung by like-minded musicians, a good description of this trio. I’m reminded of one of my alltime favorite albums, “Trio,” by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Rondstadt. Kate and comrades will be featured on August 20 at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s new barn space.
Jemima James talks about her singing: “Harmonizing comes easy to me, thanks to my father and the long car trips we took across country when I was a kid. Three kids in the back, we’d sing and he’d harmonize, and we did rounds. He sang with his brother whenever they got together, songs like ‘Utah Trail.’ They sounded like the Everly Brothers.”
Guerin gives us some background: “I’d been playing a bit with Jemima on the Island a few years back, and one night she asked me to come along to Peter Simon’s birthday party, where she was meeting up with Kate. On arrival, Kate pulled us aside and showed us a little birthday ditty in three-part harmony, and we sang it on the spot. We all sorta looked at each other and thought, ‘We’ve got something special here,’ and we’ve done our best to work up that something special into a little act.”
Indeed. Special Kate and her eclectic life.
Kate Taylor’s jewelry is at katetaylor.com. Art exhibit opening and reception at the Chilmark Martha’s Vineyard Bank on Friday, July 19, 5 to 6 pm (runs through July 31). Guerin/James/Taylor trio on Tuesday, August 20, at the M.V. Museum. The event is free and admission to the museum is also free from 5 to 8 pm on that night. The trio will play from 6 to 7 pm. The Art Cliff food truck will be there. Visit mvmuseum.org, or call 508-627-4441 for information.