Asheville Art Talk: Collagist Terry Taylor plays with words and images

MIXING IT UP: Terry Taylor stands before some of his latest collages, which will be featured in his upcoming show, 'Re:Views.'
MUSTACHE YOU A QUESTION: Terry Taylor is a long-time mustache wearer. he’s even put together a book on the subject: ‘Stache: Frivolous Facts and Fancies about That Space Between the Nose and Lip, published by a craft book publisher with whom he worked. It includes pictures, facts and even mustache related craft activities. Photo by Thomas Calder

For the past 40 years, Candler-based artist Terry Taylor has been collecting archaic photographs and postcards, as well as encyclopedias and dictionaries that date to the 1780s. In some instances, Taylor uses the images and illustrations to create collages. Other times, he generates three-dimensional pieces via embroidery. Pairings are also part of his repertoire; Taylor will slice photographs in half and stitch them together with separate images, creating a strange but recognizable reinterpretation.

Beginning Friday, Dec. 1, the artist’s latest series, Re:Views, will be on display at 305 Hillside St. The three-day exhibit will feature Taylor’s creative endeavors of the last seven years.

Often, Taylor says, he spends evenings flipping through old dictionaries in search of both familiar and unfamiliar words. These discoveries, he continues, help generate new ideas. He calls it wordplay. These are not simply puns. In some instances, Taylor is literally creating new definitions of words that he then interprets through his art. One example, “axe’ci den’tal,” features two men staring at the camera before a stack of chopped wood. Meanwhile, in the background, Taylor has added an illustration of a person swinging an ax in the direction of the photographic subjects.

Within the collection, Taylor also explores and plays with the concepts of gender and sexuality. Black-and-white photographs of grave men with pensive eyes are reimagined with pairs of high heels. Other times, skirts replace the bottom half of male subjects.

Inside his home studio, boxes are filled with clippings and postcards. Part of the joy, Taylor says, is the act of discovery. It can, at times, take months of searching — in antique shops, used book stores and online — before he locates an image that complements, complicates or defamiliarizes an existing photograph. But once the crucial piece is identified, Taylor says, “Boom! I’m gone.”

Scissors, X-Acto knives, glue, sewing needles, thread and a rather large magnifying glass are among the artist’s tools. This is another component of the work that speaks to him. Taylor likes handling the materials just as much as the creative process. “I know I could do this on Photoshop,” he says, “but that doesn’t appeal to me. … I like [cutting and gluing the illustrations] onto these anonymous photographs.

“It’s just what I do,” he continues, looking over pieces from his latest collection. “It keeps my mind going. It keeps me reading the dictionary, looking for weird words.”

WHAT: Re:Views
WHERE: 305 Hillside St.
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 1, 5-8 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 2-3, noon-5 p.m.

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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