SUPPORTING COMMUNITY

Artwork can be utilized both on and off the walls.  I welcome opportunities to support national and international justice causes and organizations through the sale, commission, and/or exhibition my work.  Please contact me with your interests and inquiries regarding collaborative efforts to use art to “support beyond the walls.”  

In an effort to give away as I continue to remember what I personally, daily receive, I am inviting you to join me in supporting community members and causes by taking advantage of art as an active tool for change.  A percentage of proceeds will go toward the funding of upcoming projects, and details pertaining to each effort will be described below.  Please take a look at current opportunities for you to support someone else AND enjoy original artwork in the process.  Please contact me with community-related interests or inquiries.

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5.2016 ARTIST RESIDENCY on how Preschoolers are “Making (Meaningful) Marks”

For the past three weeks, I have had the privilege of working with some amazing artists. I guided them through the development of two large paintings, emphasizing a process based on following personal instinct above following another person’s direction. These artists created with their minds, hearts, and bodies, and I tried to soak up something that radiated from within them—a freedom that most adults can’t access. I entered this Artist Residency as the “Teaching” Artist, but I quickly learned that my students, the Preschoolers, were the artists from whom I should take notes.

Yes, these masterful creators are the three and four year-old students of Palma Ceia Presbyterian Preschool.  This outlet for supporting my community has, without a doubt, been one that has equally supported me. My hope in highlighting their creative process is that we, artists and viewers with a few more years on us, would glean from the authenticity and pure expressionism embedded in children’s marks.

Making Meaningful Marks- exhibition card final front

  1. PAUSING AND SEEING
    The beginning of the Preschoolers’ process was all about sight and the use of the mind to imagine and explore visuals.  We reflected on two of my recent paintings, “Leaning In” and “To Abundance”, by digging into the simple question: What do you see?  The answers presented didn’t disappoint: a purple river, a scratchy bridge, a boat sailing into a city, and a transformer.
Studio Installation- Leaning In, To Abundance

Leaning In, To Abundance (studio view)

While these objects were certainly entertaining to take in, I pushed the kids to go a bit deeper, exploring the emotions embedded in the visuals.

 

2. LAYING FEELING LINES
What do you feel?  Soon, each child was eagerly drawing lines based on the emotions within them.  Live music accompanied the Preschoolers as they used pastels to saturate their canvases with intuitive marks.  It was an overall sensory experience, leaving not one ear, elbow, knee or belly out of the process—and the kids’ donned colorful stains to prove it.

 

3. KEEPING MARKS COVERED (for now)
It was soon time for me to preserve some of those initial drawn elements.  Lines and scribbles and remnants of fingers and feet were pressed into the weave of each canvas.  I spent time selecting the areas that would be kept unpainted.   I “protected” certain marks with a fancy repellent I like to call tape, while leaving other sections open for our next medium: the paint.

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4. PAINTING WITH THE BODY
Boy, did these kids maximize on their opportunity to move.  After exploring physicality—from stretching to twirling—with an experienced dancer, the Preschoolers headed for their canvases with eagerness.  They embraced their own physicality and unique modes of putting paint to surface.  A myriad of studio (and Preschool-safe) tools were dipped in white and blue: brushes, brayers, ribbons, and hands.  Until that moment, I had never seen a little girl so forcefully swing a paint-dipped ribbon; it was her sword, and she coveted the minutes she had to show the canvas her strength.  I admired at her, quietly wondering if Joan Mitchell may have carried a similar spirit as a child.

 

5. TAKING TIME TO TITLE
I challenged the Preschoolers to enter one final step of creation by returning to the mental space where it all began.  The act of seeing—not just glancing, but opening our eyes to both the intricate and the wide-swept marks around us—is an easy one to skip.  Even kids can get caught scrolling rapidly through life, so we made sure to repeat the practice of pausing.  What do you see in your works?  What can you feel?  What do you hope for others to experience?

Happiness, joy, and “rainbow twirls” were a few of the many repeated answers that came out these Preschoolers’ mouths, and so came their masterpiece titles.  The two paintings are now confidently known as “Happy Twirls” and “Glad Rainbow Stretch.”  And as much as those words makes me giggle, their unhindered and honest simplicity is just the refreshment the adult in me needs.

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To learn more on enrollment, volunteering, or programming opportunities with the kids and community of PCPC, visit: http://palmaceia.org/

 

 

1.2016 PAINTINGS that speak to the “Realities of Being Human”
I spent my yesterday working on applications for upcoming exhibitions around the U.S. and overseas.  The show-entry processes are always ones that leave me drained of logistical effort, but filled with fresh words for explaining my works to a diverse audience.  Sometimes, we receive opportunities to serve community in practical, measurable ways—whether it be via monetary donations, time-based services, or awarenesses raised on behalf of a cause.  Today, however, I am using this post to acknowledge the truth that the sharing of personal experiences can be an equally valuable means of fostering healing, encouragement, change, and connection among individuals.

With that, I leave you with the following insights behind three pieces that I created during the past year.  The works are part of my series called “Autobiographies” (previously entitled “Absurdity Series,” until I realized this new name is far more fitting for the works represented).  My hope is not that every viewer would grasp the ins and outs of my marks and their meanings, but instead that my paintings would generate emotion, vulnerability, and truths that give others a chance to release their walls, too.  If you relate closely to my images and words, I’m excited to share that commonality.  And if you pause with the feeling that it’s all unfamiliar, I’m grateful to get to be your taste of “something different.”  It is a gift to find ways to relate to each other, but I think community thrives most when we can pause, converse, and expand through our differences.

1. Mercy Over Rules:

Mercy Over Rules – latex paint, screen print ink, pastel, charcoal, papers, yardstick, string, elastic cord, and bicycle tires on canvas – 72×132 f inches – 2015

“Mercy Over Rules” was created in an attempt to simultaneously acknowledge and overturn my modes of control.  I spent four hours splashing and moving with my materials on the floor, and this canvas became laden with residue of mixed media and of me.  As the painting neared its completion, it felt as though it was radiating out the realities of my personal issues with my body, with OCD, with constant production, and with time.  I asked myself, “How, when, and in what ways could this piece renew me and others, coinciding with that promise of “new mercies each day1”?  The reason I sewed rulers, tires, and tape into the fabric of this canvas, was because I needed to fight against my battles for the day, and to receive mercy for the losses that I did (and will continue to) encounter.  Most of all, however, I needed to remember that systems of measurement, movement, and protection can be deconstructed, and we can thrive all the more without them.  Rather than presenting a crisp, traditional painting around stretcher bars, I veer away from historical rules of display, opting instead to present an installation that mirrors humanity—an ever-changing, always-tugging, mercy-needing humanity.

1Lamentations 3:22-2

2. How I Hold It

HOW I HOLD IT

How I Hold It – latex and acrylic paints, tape, string, pastel, elastic cord, and exercise bands on canvas – approx. 90×60 inches – 2015

“How I Hold It” is a painting that hinges (literally and figuratively) upon the beliefs, forces, and truths that seem to be beyond human grasp or logic.  The canvas itself is a representation of humanity—worn, expressive, and attached to its unwinding baggage.  “My baggage,” in the case of this piece, is a wad of used exercise bands, incorporated to denote my experiences with feeling enslaved to exercise, physical labor, and thought-patterns based on the false idea that worthiness can be earned.  Wherever the piece may hang, these bands will add to its weight.  Though the main form, the canvas, demonstrates a capability of holding itself and its baggage together, the irony comes upon recognizing the delicate cord running through and stretching with it.  Were it not for this thin, elastic force and its ability to move with the piece that it holds, its counterpart would fall.  So often we associate strength with boldness, with dominance, and with self.  The strongest aspect of this artwork, however, is not intrusive and is not fighting for attention.  It supports humbly and quietly.  As you consider this piece and its implications, I hope you are encouraged to also consider the uplifting force in your own own life—perhaps a god, or a goal, or an entity you have yet to name.

3. Suffering Stand

SUFFERING STAND

Suffering Stand – acrylic and latex paints, acrylic medium, soft and oil pastel, graphite, charcoal, and tape on papers – 72×84 inches – 2015

“Suffering Stand” utilizes the dichotomies of black versus white, bold form versus thin line, and dark versus light, to evoke the paradoxes involved in suffering.  It is easy to reflect on my own story when it comes to suffering—not because I am overwhelmed by a negativity associated with my painful moments, but because I am overwhelmed by the fact that my painful moments are drenched (beautifully and always unexpectedly) with growth and value.  I know that I am not the only individual who has encountered this paradox of pain.  Friends, co-workers, and family members have stories that are equally marked by their ongoing resilience through personal battles.  So, this work is not so much an uncovering of some new epiphany about surviving pain, but instead a celebration of those who have suffered gracefully for years longer than I have.  This piece is an expression and hope: of the strength that can come from apparent weakness, and the stand that one can take to move joyously amidst an unbearable circumstance.

For more information, or to keep the conversation going: taylorothomas.com/contact.

 

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6.2015 PAINTINGS used on Sobremesa Stories blog to discuss what it means to be “torn”
I was recently given the opportunity to feature some words and images on a blog that not only taps into the perspective of womanhood, but reveals honestly the ups and downs that it involves.  Sobremesa Stories was founded by a dear friend and also admirable teacher, scholar, and wife, Lauren English.  One of my favorite aspects of living my life as an artist is getting these precious chances to share my words alongside my visual expressions of them.  Thank you to Lauren and her audience. It was as much a joy for me to create “Torn” as I hope it was for the community to see and read it.  Here is an excerpt of the piece:

“Being torn is being okay.

Torn,
Between what I can see and what I cannot
Between what is and what isn’t
Between longing and satisfaction
Between prayer and praise
Between the embark and the arrival
Between who I am and who I will be tomorrow
And the next day
And the next day
In-between.

…My body and my mind are not made to be stagnant. Are we made to be stilled? —yes. Made to know peace? —yes. But made to be stagnant would require a stripping of an intrinsic longing for growth—and this, we all have.


I think everyone can resonate with the feeling of wanting to grow. Mine, particularly, felt like a thirst for more—a “more” I couldn’t describe, but wished to grab. Art has been an increasingly life-giving process over the past two years, and I have grown into a style and voice that I can call “my own.” There has always been this bigger vision for my work, and my purpose, that I have been given glimpses of—whether it be through the power of dialogue surrounding a piece, or other artists who have made marks on the world. I see the way a mark on a canvas can make a mark on a person. My heart pounds for that impact. I want to grow past the boundaries that any state of stagnancy would allow. Hence I made my choice:

I will move.”

To read more of the visual story, or to contribute your own thoughts and experiences for those who may need to read them, visit: Sobremesa Stories.

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11.13.14 PAINTING in dedication to the communities of RWANDA
I am grateful for the opportunity to join lower-school students, national and international artists, and Warehouse242 members in a creative effort to support Rwandan communities.  41 local 1st-7th graders in Charlotte, North Carolina recently participated in a workshop that challenged them to create artwork inspired by Rwandan artifacts.  They were not only educated on current conditions abroad, but asked to speak and act through visual creation.  Each student piece was then digitally sent to a group of nearly 50 professional artists around and outside of the U.S.  We saw a child’s perspective through artwork, and subsequently created our own pieces in response.  It was moving.  It was jarring.  It was, and is, beautiful to see the comparison of works.

An upcoming exhibition at Warehouse 242 Gallery will open on November 13, 2014.  Student and artist works will be displayed side-by-side, so that viewers may see an image of Rwanda from a multitude of perspectives.  A percentage of sales proceeds will act as the church’s “income generating activity” for these communities they’ve chosen to support.  Below is further information on the project as a whole, as well as my painting the drawing by Ethan that inspired it:

Drawing by Ethan

Inspired by Ethan and the communities of Rwanda

“Arrest” mixed media on canvas 20×16 inches 2014

“When I saw the image and text included in Ethan’s drawing, I was overcome by the innocent, sheer honesty of his work.  The words, “arrest me” repeated in my head as I began approaching my own responsive piece.  I allowed myself to contemplate the meaning behind his words, and to follow the rawness of his wiry lines and bold, child-chosen colors.  My piece is a glimpse into how Ethan’s work did “arrest me,” and also an embodiment of the many dimensions of the word “arrest,” as an action and a condition.  My hope is that amidst the turmoil and confinement in their suffering, the people of Rwanda would know hope—just as bold pops of color breathe life into dark places.  As for us: I pray these sorts of stories would always jolt and arrest us into action, that we would give our brothers and sisters abroad a rest and an aid in their trying.”

-TOT, October 2014

“We believe that when neighbors in fragile communities can engage in meaningful work, it not only upholds their dignity as humans, but it also keeps neighbors from engaging in high-risk activities. In Rwanda, boredom, hopeless and despair often lead toward high-risk sexual encounters, thus adding fuel to the HIV/AIDS fire. In West Charlotte, unemployment and lack of opportunity enhance the threats of gangs, prostitution, and unplanned teenage pregnancies.

Our aim with the IGA (income generating activity) is to rejuvenate West Charlotte and West Rwanda through exceptional coffee, grown at the Cyimbili plantation (pronounced chim-billy). By increasing demand for this wonderful coffee, we are ensuring that the Cyimbili farmers are getting top-dollar for their crop. This means more workers at the plantation can earn a solid income; more children can then attend secondary school (not free in Rwanda); and more families in the neighboring community can have access to clean water, medical care, and spiritual community.
If we can steadily increase demand for Cyimbili-grown coffee, our goal is to one day roast this coffee here in West Charlotte, and use the coffee enterprise as a springboard for job training. This means our at-risk West Charlotte neighbors can participate in jobs such as coffee roasting, sales, fulfillment, cupping, marketing, and business development. This is the “full circle” we are aiming to achieve with this IGA.”
-Warehouse242, 2014

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12.19.13 PAINTING Sold // FAMILY CHRISTMAS PROJECT Funded
Read below for the most recent project that has been funded through the purchasing of “Adam and Eve (2011)”:

“I have only recently become aware of the story of the Shim Family.  As Elise and Kevin pursue their careers and education in the United States, their parents reside in their home in South Korea.  Due to the cost of cancer treatments, Mrs. Shim and her husband are unable to fund flights for their children to be with them over the holidays this year.  They have already received generous donations, but will need one final push to complete their fund.  By purchasing my painting, your money will be directly used to allow the Shim Family to fulfill this fundraising goal in time for Christmas.”

-TOT, December 2013

The following work is available specifically for the funding of this effort: