Halloween might have come and gone, but Taylor Stone’s solo exhibition at the Workshop Gallery in Vineyard Haven, “There’s Nothing but Witches and Wizards Out There,” is worthy of its own celebration. It’s a delight of imagination and teems with creativity, and you have a few days left to experience it firsthand.
Currently, Stone is perhaps best known for her colored cut-paper dimensional illustrations that sit like paper dioramas in 3D shadowboxes. Whether of land, sea, or sky, her nature-inspired compositions are often populated with whimsical small creatures and beings that allude to a narrative of your own making. Stone writes on her website, “Growing up on the beautiful little Island of Martha’s Vineyard, and more specifically in an even littler house, right by the State Forest, it’s not hard to guess where my love of nature began. I’ve never quite grown out of that idea of faerie magic and enchanted forests hiding right out of sight, and it certainly shows in my art as well.”
Stone has filled the Workshop Gallery with many iterations of her folklore and magic-themed art. “I was that kid growing up who said, ‘I’m part elf.’ Wouldn’t it be great if we were all witches and could use our magic powers?” Something unusual for an exhibition is that Stone has pulled back the curtain and shares her artistic process with us, inspired by the fact that the space is also a working artists’ studio, and so fascinating preparatory drawings abound.
We start in the front room with Stone’s handsome linoleum and woodblock prints and a mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind lithography accordion book, all of which reflect the genesis of her faerie and folklore imagery that began in college when she was taking a world mythology class and studying printmaking.
The second room is a treasure trove of samples of Stone’s cut-paper art, which, in addition to the framed three-dimensional work, includes crystal-sharp archival giclée prints of these forest-themed pieces. On display, too, are Stone’s fun jigsaw puzzles and locally available printed cards, emblazoned with her cut-paper Vineyard-inspired illustrations. You’ll also find a “plant” display of tiny potted cacti, all hand-cut and painted in vibrant greens, or orange and ocher hues. “The cut-paper plants started off in college when I was experimenting with paper for the first time. I happened to be killing all my plants, and I needed to come up with a solution. I like the cactuses because they are fun and colorful. It’s funny, I liked them because they are supposed to be easy plants, and now they are the easiest ones,” Stone says jokingly.
Asked if she works intuitively when she’s cutting her compositions, Stone describes her intricate process: “I draw lots of sketches — good old pencil on paper — to decide the overall idea and layout. Then begins the meticulous drawing in Photoshop, where I plan out every little part of the piece. This is actually the hardest step for me, because it requires so much brainpower and the ability to think ahead.” Stone says that she bears down in this decisionmaking stage to focus solely on the cutting and gluing later. “If I don’t plan it all out up front, there will be nothing but disaster later on … Everything’s been planned out already, so I can turn my brain off a bit and just enjoy the process,” explains Stone on her website.
The third room, a dark dragon’s lair, packs a stupendous punch. The massive creature creates an immersive environment that includes music and lights that ignite your imagination. To describe the installation further would give too much away — but suffice it to say that it’s a not-to-be-missed experience. Asked what inspired her to undertake such a project, Stone replies, “I don’t know. Sometimes you just need to get something out. In the past year, I’ve been thinking about the art I want to make in the future, and I’ve really wanted to push the envelope past what I’ve been making.”
Stone shares every stage of the process of creating the dragon in the room next door, including, among other things, the exploratory drawings to those sketching the dragon to scale, the final drawing in Photoshop that guided her cutting, and the remnants of these pieces. There is also a table and art supplies to draw your own dragon, and hang on the communal wall, which is appropriate for this working artists’ studio.
What Stone hopes happens after experiencing her show is that “people will walk away with not being scared to play, go outside the boxes, or explore. There are a lot of pieces of this exhibition that are kind of like me sticking it to people who have told me I have to be a certain way.”
And, after seeing “There’s Nothing but Witches and Wizards Out There,” you will be grateful that she has taken the plunge.
“There’s Nothing But Witches and Wizards Out There” is on display at the Workshop Gallery through Nov. 18. Visit taylorstoneillustration.com and @taylorstonemv, or email directly at email@example.com.