The Amazing World of Maggie Taylor
Surreal, dream-like images inhabited by the solemn countenances of people from a bygone era, set in fantastical landscapes and surrounded by a strange assortment of animals, an arc of bees or random objects; these are the magical images of Maggie Taylor. Taylor creates astonishingly complex digital collages combining original photographs, 19th century daguerreotypes, scanned objects and vintage etchings, to produce imaginative and mysterious photographs.
Walking through the Joanne Artman Gallery in Laguna Beach where her work is currently on display, the artist enjoyed cataloging the numerous objects in her pieces and has an incredible memory for the origins of each of the items she used her images. The landscapes are an amalgam of several photographs: the surface of Mono Lake, a trip in Austria, clouds from a separate location supplemented with finds from her garden, fern leaves and grasshoppers. Source material also includes vintage etchings and objects around her house, such as an old tape measure, the living room piano, a butterfly wing and aviator goggles belonging to her husband (surrealist photographer Jerry Uelsmann). Most distinctive is her use of 19th century daguerreotype portraits, which she frequents antique and flea markets to find. As a result of this combination, her work seems to transcend any temporal reference, seeming both futuristic and from a bygone era.
Antique portraits can be challenging to use, Taylor explains, because the photographic exposures were so long and the subjects are often blurry or blinking. “It’s hard to find ones that are attractive,” she says as she describes the changes in the hair, eyebrows, chins and other “plastic surgery” she imparts on her subjects.
The process of creating her work not only takes incredible imagination but astonishing patience. Taylor uses two to three hundred layers in Adobe Photoshop to create an image. The result is a paradox of real and surreal: intricate and sharply detailed objects in a fantastic, impossible arrangement.
Taylor describes the process of creating Burden of Dreams as follows:
I have drawers full of objects I have collected over the years and there are some that I really love, and I never knew what to do with them in an image. About a year ago I started to work on an image of a profile of a man I wasn’t sure what I would do with. [So] maybe I would take all these different objects that I love, that I have never used, and some that I have used before, and have them coming out of his head like this incredible explosion of ideas or dreams, or memories.
After I finished working on him I thought, he needs to have a partner image. He is looking into the distance and he definitely needed a balancing partner image to be looking back at him. I don’t know if they are their memories or current ideas or represent the past but the woman has things that seem to relate to travel: she has paper airplanes and a suitcase and an umbrella and things that suggest maybe a trip or voyage and strange explosion of cloud puffs all around. The man has things that remind me of Dutch botanicals, or antique paintings of Dutch botanicals with tulips and bees and a weird little frog you would find in a biology book.”
Taylor hopes the complexity of her pieces allows a viewer to continually see something new in the work. “On a good day you may get one thing out of it and on a bad day or an emotional day you might see it in a different light.” When questioned about the meaning behind some of the images, Taylor dismissed the intention of a narrative. “I like it to be a little bit open ended and inviting the viewers to create their own stories.”
Maggie Taylor’s work is on view at the JoAnne Artman Gallery: 326 N Pacific Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, (949) 510-5481