Kara Taylor brings her experiences to life on canvas


For the past six years, artist Kara Taylor has been splitting her time between the Vineyard and South Africa, creating images inspired by her time in both places. Taylor had previously made a name for herself in the art world for her dreamlike landscapes and ethereal figure studies. Ever since she made the move to an entirely different culture and environment, much of her newer work has shown the influence of the land of apartheid and continuing discord.

“Since I’ve created a life there [Cape Town], my art has gone into a whole different direction,” says the Vineyard-born-and-raised artist. “Much of it is racially concerned. It’s still such an ongoing, tenuous relationship there.”

This year Taylor discovered herself all but trapped in South Africa, when the country closed its borders in March due to the coronavirus. She had to go through the repatriation process and wait until a special flight was made available at the empty airport for Americans heading home. The whole ordeal proved lengthy, complicated, and expensive, but Taylor was eventually able to make it back to the Vineyard in time for the summer season.

She will be opening her gallery this coming weekend, and among the work on display will be examples of both paintings she completed this past winter and spring in her studio in South Africa, and new Vineyard-based landscape work.

The new South African paintings feature images of women in colorful, surreal landscapes wearing flowing fabric garments that billow in the wind or are sometimes draped, shroudlike, over supine bodies. Flowers, water, and trees figure prominently in the paintings.

This recent series, titled “Reciprocity,” comments on both human relationships and environmental issues. “Nothing seems sacred in life anymore,” says Taylor. “We’re losing connection with each other and with our environment. The planet is suffering ecologically, and humanity is suffering.”

As with much of her work, Taylor features black-and-white figures in her latest series, sometimes in racially mixed pairs, and always with their faces obscured. There is a duality to the otherworldly images in their subtext of divide versus connection. The images are both dynamic and calming. That quality is a trademark of Taylor’s work. She has a knack for combining the mystical with a sense of familiarity, the light with the dark, the cool with the warm. In all of her work — landscapes or figurative paintings — Taylor’s images resonate on both a conscious and subconscious level — the former in the beauty of the image itself, the use of color, form, and detail, and the latter in the sense of mystery that draws the viewer in.

Kara Taylor Gallery, 24 South Road, Chilmark. Open Friday through Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. 508-332-8171, karataylorart.com.