Our Featured Artist:
DAVID GREGORY TAYLOR
Back around 1972, I was minding my own business, listening to the radio at work when a thunderbolt rocked my world: the draft lottery matched me up with a number lower than one hundred out of three hundred sixty-five.
I immediately went insane. Even with near-sightedness, I figured I was heading to 'Nam, because I had declared myself 1A.
I dropped out of college, ran off to Colorado, and helped found Everyman Studios with Artie Romero, Darrel Anderson, Rick Berry, and Kirk Kennedy. I started writing and illustrating the underground comic HOBO STORIES in Colorado, finished it back in Missouri after bouncing around in Colorado Springs, and then hitchhiked to San Francisco to sell the book. This was about a month after the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, and even though my book wasn't about sex (I was a virgin), I failed to find a publisher until 1979, when Artie's Everyman Comics finally issued it.
By then, I had become a painter and printmaker, and begun a weird journey that led me into becoming an orderly that took care of invalids, and to being a high school and college teacher.
Along the way I picked up a Master's Degree from Pratt Institute
(which I only mention because it cost me $23,000!) But it was worth the bucks,
because New York...or, better said, what happened to me in New York...changed me forever,
brought me out of the madness of 1972, and turned me into the artist I am
INTERVIEW with David Gregory Taylor
What have you done that many people feel is ground-breaking? What is your claim to fame?
I guess being one of the Everyman Studios group is,
before this year, the big thing I've done. But this year I designed the International Baccalaureate Holocaust Project for the web and on CD-ROM, and the praise it is receiving
from both the educational community, and groups like The Anti-Defamation League and The
Holocaust Documentation Project, is very gratifying. My colleague, the historian Dan Blackmon, and I are producing
another volume just after the new year. All the research is done by high school
students. This year the students will design the site under my supervision.
What is your favorite story from the times you were riding highest? (You can drop names if you'd like).
Getting to know Rolf Fjelde of the Julliard School and Pratt Institute is one of the best things that ever happened to me, simply because his introduction to me of the work of Henrik Ibsen was the clarifying event for me as an artist. I began to understand culture and human nature at the point, in 1987, that I figured out what Ibsen was saying as a writer was part of the answer to the dilemma of modernity. I wrote a paper at that time that Fjelde felt was good enough to read to his family. I had hit the nail on the head, and began to really formulate my philosophy as an artist in my mid-thirties. It really turned me around.
Did you find a calling to your art early on? What called you
to your art and vision?
Did the place you were born inflame your desire to be an
artist and/or your art?
Do you feel that the future of the arts is encouraging?
I think the future of the "arts" is always DIScouraging until it is used for more than decoration or entertainment. I'm very much opposed to art-for-art's-sake, which has almost completely divorced ordinary people from relating to painting. But the upside of that is good, for the death of object-oriented art is imminent. Art is quickly becoming digital information that is seen by anyone with a connection to the World Wide Web. Though that bodes ill for galleries and dealers, it is wonderful for the purpose of art, which, in my opinion, has little to do with exclusive ownership of objects d'art.
I really believe artists should seek to make art accessible to the public without sacrificing content. Don't become attached to the short-term outcome of your message. My own experience has taught me that even developing something worth saying may take years, and I think I'm only beginning to do that in the series of works that I'm doing in response to living through Hurricane Andrew. My storm series has gone from oil on wood to oil and digital to completely digital in a space of about four years, and is really starting to gel recently, in works like Impending Storm. It's about accepting chaos and integrating it without focusing on the self, but seeing it as something happening. No self-pity, just acceptance, and realizing its beauty. Those weeks without electricity, clean water, or even the taste of hot coffee, passes, and we begin to rebuild. I tell my students they must resolve the past and prepare for the future so that they may live in the present. For me, the role of the arts is to show us how that is done. That's why I'm interested in more than just the work of an artist, but also his/her life. I thank Ibsen for that.
What inspires you personally?
Right now, Plato's Allegory of the Cave and
Aristotle's Theory of Happiness and the relationship that exists between this
teacher and his student. I've formulated a way of teaching Aristotle and Plato to high
school art students that teaches both art and philosophy in a manner accessible to
adolescents, using works like Michelangelo's Pietà, The Egyptian Book of the
Dead, Les Trés Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, and Andy Warhol, to give you an
idea of the span of art involved. I occasionally lecture graduate teaching students on the
subject, also. Teaching teenagers a working philosophy that can sustain a significant life
is very rewarding, even if it is sometimes difficult.
Whom do you admire or strive to emulate in terms of accomplishment and artistic vision?
When I was young I loved Van Gogh, but now I see him as a limited artist. I just don't believe Van Gogh to be the quintessential artist that his popularity assigns to him. What I really admire is patience. The patience to take the time to develop the art of seeing, of understanding with the eyes, and allowing a dissolving of the importance of the self that is possible through art. Certainly, that is the crux of Ibsen, an embracing of the totality of life, with its rose petals and vomit. Picasso still sends me into orbit, especially his prints. That reminds me that I love the work of Jean Cocteau, especially the film Orphée.
The development of Michelangelo from a youth to an old
man, both in his art and his life, fascinates me. It speaks of the value of Aristotle's
opinion that a significant life must be evaluated in its entirety. I think artists who
have lived to old age are to be examined. They show us many things about what the full
artistic life entails.
Do you think that cyberspace is a viable medium for the
arts? Is it, in your opinion, an appropriate medium for the arts? Which of the arts, if
Is the concept of a virtual community for creative people
something you think has merit?
Do you think it will actually work?
Well, it's like the tale of the boy that wanted to thwart the Buddhist master who supposedly knew everything. He came to the master with a bird in his hand, and asked him if the bird behind his back was dead or alive. If the master said yes, he would crush it and present its lifeless body, and if he said it was dead, he'd release it to fly. The master looked at the boy when the question was asked and said, "The fate of the bird is in your hands." So is the fate of this virtual community in ours, and whether it is a living thing...or a dead redundancy.
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