Pretty gory: Taylor turns green in the Garage
February’s First Friday was not going well. The painter I’d hoped to meet at my first stop had already abandoned his two-hour opening with 60 minutes left on the clock. Arriving at the next gallery, I discovered the artist’s talk had started early (I do time these things). And, worse, not all the artists got a chance to speak.
So I was feeling cranky and the opposite of upbeat when I trekked up First St. to see Jeremy Seth Taylor’s exhibition, “Salus,” at the Garage (cursing the for-profit funeral home along the way for having the gall to “reserve” public parking spaces–a pet peeve of mine). Amazingly, a few minutes in the tiny gallery with Taylor’s work and my dark cloud lifted.
It’s not that Taylor’s animal-centered drawings, prints, paintings, and ceramics are cheerful; on the contrary, they are often grim and violent, dripping with stylized gore. No, what’s wonderful is the deft technique Taylor brings to his unusual outlook. Concerned with nature’s vulnerability to human incursion, Taylor creates a unique visual vocabulary and uses organic pigments to express his thoughts.
His influences are far-flung. He cites Renaissance artists like Pisanello and DŒrer when discussing his depiction of animals. But Taylor combines this refined illustrative approach with flat, stylized design elements and a color palette characteristic of Japanese prints. He also frequently includes personally meaningful symbols, like a golden web-like network, which he refers to as “manmade mountains,” adopted from a drawing in his father’s chemistry notebook.
Combining these disparate elements, Taylor creates background-less images of deer, sheep, and rabbits– selected for their docile natures– who suffer through limbs falling off, decapitation, and other atrocities in the prettiest way. Blood flies in stylized droplets or pools in appealing peach-colored puddles.
Hung salon-style, the exhibition also includes several items Taylor ran across while salvaging frames in junk stores. Two cross-stitched samplers and a snowflake cut out of lined notebook paper hang undifferentiated amid his drawings and prints. Surprisingly, all the elements work harmoniously.
The only out-of-synch pieces in “Salus” are three abstract works that feature”Š wait for it”Š hairballs thrown up by Taylor’s cat (I can practically hear the Hook copyeditor’s eyes rolling). Questionable media aside, these three mixed-media paintings jar aesthetically with the rest of the show and are uncharacteristic of Taylor’s exquisite technique and intellectual depth.
Overall, though, Taylor’s exhibition is a thought-provoking treat that’s ideally suited for the Garage’s re-purposed space.
Jeremy Seth Taylor's exhibition "Salus" is on view at the Garage through the end of February. Alas, the gallery has no regular hours, so if you want to see the show, contact Kate Daughrill at firstname.lastname@example.org or wait for the closing on February 27. 1st St. (across from Lee Park). For more information, visit www.thegarage-cville.com.