Sole food: Nikes, Adidas, and Vasques to boot

One of the more enduring art memories I have happened while I was visiting friends in New York City. On a rainy Saturday we– and thousands of others– headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Chaos ensued as we funneled through the revolving doors into the warmth and stillness of the galleries and subsequently got carried away from each other in the mayhem.
As I followed the general current of onlookers, vainly scanning the crowds for my friends, the momentum carried me further into the recesses of that great building. Before long, I found myself positioned directly in front of Vincent Van Gogh’s “A Pair of Shoes.” Amid the trampling crowds, I found solace in that painting’s simplicity and evocation of a life of work.
Steve Taylor, a new member of the McGuffey Art Center, creates similar images with his paintings of shoes. At a cursory glance, the seven paintings provide a sort of travelogue of Taylor’s exploits as a boot-wearing man. Because he does not let the paintings speak for themselves, adding a small snippet of typed biography which expounds on their respective histories, the works wind up looking a little like a J. Peterman catalog. (Taylor spent 22 years in advertising.)
It’s hard to gauge whether the several misspellings and typos (cometitions and scools) are intentional or part of an attempt at a “whole mountain man” Bruce Chatwin-esque mystique.
Instantly recognizable, from Frye to Vasque to Timberland with Adidas and Nike thrown in, Taylor’s shoes remind one of times past, times remembered, and times kept. Shoes have qualities that tie us together in mutual pursuits. Immediately I remembered the time and anxiety spent on finding the right pair of boots for a year-long European trek. Six months later on that trip, when almost everything I owned washed away in a flood, I was glad for those boots on my feet.
Taylor’s shoes are the stuff of life. Realistically rendered with all the grooves, indents, and scuffmarks, they still leave plenty to the imagination. Each pair reflects a certain time that draws the viewer ever closer to hear the metallic cleat of Taylor’s Nike football (soccer) boot play 50 international matches and end up in a hospital visit. There’s even a “jodpur boot” that was party to a drunken gathering replete with the requisite hangover.
All in all, the display is a delightful survey of one man’s life and, taking each boot individually, a metaphor for the passage of time. May Taylor continue his well-heeled adventures.

“Boot stories, and other recent paintings” are part of the New Members show at the McGuffey Art Center through February 1. 201 Second St. 295-7973.