Photographer Maggie Taylor’s technically brilliant, unapologetically enigmatic digital photographs throw the viewer slightly off balance, like the work of her husband and fellow photographer, Jerry Uelsmann. The couple, who appear to be on the same wavelength, are featured on a double bill at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art. Their show opens Thursday, August 6, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. with an artists’ reception to coincide with the Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities’ First Thursday Art Walk.
Like Uelsmann, Taylor’s renown is international. A major retrospective of her work is currently on display at Centro Internazionale di Fotografia Scavi Scaligeri in Verona, Italy. Also like Uelsmann, Taylor is all about altering the world as we know it in visually interesting ways: the result, at once playful and scary.
Maggie Taylor grew up in the 1960s/1970s, when social commentary was the name of game in the work of Pop artists such as Andy Warhol. Taylor’s images, however, are less social commentary and more personal statements, often, though not always, with a feminist cast.
In her studio, Taylor has drawers and shelves filled with all kinds of objects and pieces of text. The artist tends to choreograph the detritus of her life indoors before taking the items outside into her yard to photograph them with an old view camera in natural light. An avid gardener, Taylor also finds inspiration as well as actual material to scan when outside.
“There are a lot of small details in the work….things that only a very careful viewer will discover….such as a lizard in the vines of ‘The Patient Gardener’ or magic pebbles in the wheelbarrow of ‘I’m Grown Up Now.’”
Most of Taylor’s images contain an alarming number of layers.
”The ‘Boys with Thinking Caps’ is pretty typical in that it contains a 19th-century photograph, travel snapshots I took while hiking in Yosemite, a scan of a toy boat, and hats and smoke that are elements created by drawing in Photoshop.”
A number of images in the exhibit at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art come from Taylor’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” published by Modernbook Editions.
“Lewis Carroll was a photographer, so it seemed especially appropriate to try to create images for his story that contain photographic elements. All of my antique photographs are American, except for the bailiff (who is English)….but they are from approximately the same time period as Carroll’s Alice. I worked on the 45 images in my Almost Alice series for three years, and now there is a book with the original Lewis Carroll text and all of my images. Each of my Alices is a different Victorian girl. Some are from tintypes (such as the one in ‘A Very Difficult Game Indeed’) and many are from daguerreotypes. I scan the old, anonymous images and then work on them adding color and other things. “
“I think there is something very sweet but sad about this little white rabbit with his trumpet and scroll. I worked with graphic designer Connie Hwang to create a very elegant, Victorian feel for the book, and this is the image we selected for the cover.”
Whatever the image, it appears Taylor’s goal is for the viewer to experience a convergence of factual memory and fictional daydreams, something like what we imagine is her internal dialog in creating the work.
Taylor creates her images on Photoshop, neither a short cut nor a cop out from traditional ways of making photographs and no less creative, as old-school critics might argue.
“When people think about using the computer to make art they often mistakenly believe that it is an easy solution or a very quick process. In my experience, using the computer is slower than working with a camera and film. I go back again and again to the images to refine and improve them. I only make about 10 to 15 images a year and I can be working on one image for a few weeks, or even a month.”
Taylor was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1961. She received her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Yale University and a masters degree in photography from the University of Florida, Gainesville. From 1987 – 1996, Maggie Taylor created color still-lifes in her studio and garden using film. In 1996, she began using the computer to create her art. Taylor’s work is featured in major museums around the world, including Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, Musee de la Photographie, Belgium, and Museert For Fotokunst, Denmark.
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