Sunday, March 31, 2013


There are still a couple more weeks to view my online-only exhibition in the AbArtOnline Galerie Cerulean (click here).

I was thrilled when the artist and writer Philip Hartigan chose to focus on my work for one of his blog posts (click here). I loved what he wrote, a sensitive reading of one painting in the online exhibition, the recently-completed "Decay of Sound," with extrapolations to the twelve works in the online show. Please visit Philip's blog, Praeterita, to see the post.

As I've said elsewhere, Joe Walentini's concept for his artists in this season was to provide new work alongside work from past years, to draw parallels or contrasts. Here is a photo of my studio wall, with some of the new work and some I brought out of storage alongside it, as I was contemplating my selections last February. I was very happy to give some works in storage another chance to be seen and put in some new context.

As you can see in the foreground center, the recently-completed "All The Time" has definite corollaries in the painting to the right of it, "Sotto Voce," from 1998. As "Sotto Voce" didn't end up in the final selection of just six works to complement the six recent works, I thought I would provide today a view of that and a few other works which I'd wanted to use, but in the end did not. (Some of these older works were documented in slides and then the slides were scanned, so if the photos are not as crisp as what we've become accustomed to, that's the reason.)

Ravenna Taylor, "Sotto Voce," 1998, oil on wood panel, 30 x 30 inches
Ravenna Taylor, "What Matters," 1997, watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 inches
Ravenna Taylor, "Efflorescence 3," 1997, oil on two canvases, 40 x 60 inches

I titled my show after a recent painting: Echo-location. These and other works from before 2002 were the most resonant with some of my latest work, because in my work of more recent years, I have been involved with patterns and systems. These earlier works, however, had evolved in the early part of the 90's, as I was emerging from a more naturalistic (though still loosely-rendered) study of landscape, and especially horizons. 

Ravenna Taylor, "Avowal," 1995, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches

I was then using a palette very much inspired by my walks outdoors, especially on the western fringe of San Francisco, at Ocean Beach. Around 1997, I began to see a lot of museum exhibits celebrating India's anniversary of independence from Great Britain, and my palette was strongly influenced as I was thrilled by the wider possibilities of emotional expression through color. Here is an example of a work in oils that used the same compositional approach, but with new developments in my chromatic expression, (as can also be seen in the watercolor above, "What Matters"):

Ravenna Taylor, "Cadence 2," 1998, oil on two canvases, 36 x 60 inches

These are just a few of many works I still own, which I had wanted to exhibit in the current online show, and which would have resonated with my latest work; my work has always been very involved with edges and meetings, the harmony or dissonance of one visual field meeting another, and the metaphysical or metaphorical possibilities I could explore in that edge. A number of other possible inclusions can be viewed in my website (which I must confess has not been updated since about 2004!) -- That is to be found here.

There was a leap in my imagery from the years 2002, and the one painting I included from that period in the online show is this one, "No Words."

Ravenna Taylor, "No Words," 2002, oil on canvas, 30 x 32 inches

More than a few others from the years between 2000 and 2003 are represented in the website; during that period, I was taking part in a figure drawing group every week, and the impact of that activity is reflected in the changed imagery with which I worked.

In a future post, I will put up some photos of work completed since my move to New Jersey in 2003, works I considered for this year's online exhibit, but which, like paintings pictured above, were not finally included.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Tongue Tips No"

Tongue tips "No"

March tribe drifts, no flutter

No white moth

Not yet -

On dimmer days

Limpid, deep mallard-wing green

Pond-oculus, from thawing earth

And sappy yellow lashes,


Glance to snow

2013, Ravenna Taylor

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Today I drove to Manhattan to deliver two pieces that will be exhibited with the Hullaballoo Collective (follow link to see my two works), at the Fountain Art Fair, located in the historical Armory on Lexington Avenue . We are excited that it is the 100th anniversary of the first Armory Fair! After long years of feeling isolated in my work, and having mostly an audience that exists only behind a computer screen, I am frankly thrilled to think that living breathing human beings will be respiring and perspiring in the same space that my collage and painting will occupy. People will be overstimulated and fatigued, but I look forward to seeing how my work holds up in that crush. I am very grateful to the Hullaballoo Collective for including my work and for all the work that various members have taken on to make it possible.

The lighting was fixed on the part of the wall where my two pieces are hanging, (above the chair in this shot), and before the show actually opened to the public. Thank you, Hullaballoos and Fountain.
 While awaiting the drop-off hour, I went to the Whitney to see the Jay de Feo survey. It was very moving to me in a number of ways. There are her ambitious oil paintings, but also many more personal and private works: drawings in mixed media, photos and photocollages, photograms, and objects. Here is a photo of a piece that was labeled "gelatin silver chemgram."

It touched me to learn that Jay de Feo had stopped painting for 4 years after disruptions in her personal life and her health, and then had returned to the Bay Area to teach; in a new and more secure phase of her life, she resumed her work, paintings informed by all the pursuits she had kept up in the intervening years, although she never did anything again as ambitious and strange as her "Rose."

After dropping off my work at the Armory, (near-missing a parking ticket), I went to Chelsea and managed to hear a good part of a panel about the work on exhibit at Cheim & Read currently, the "Alphabet Paintings" of Al Held. The paintings are monumental, stunningly so; but in their touch, they have a human trace. They are magnificent.

My online exhibition is underway, where I have twelve works on display now, with Galerie Cerulean at AbArtOnline. I can't help reflecting upon all that has unfolded in my life in the years that the exhibition covers, from 1999 to the present. Tonight, to have been among works, and also among artists, who tower over me, in a week that is a beehive of activity for the artworld, taking place in NY -- I moved to put myself in this proximity, and find myself feeling, sometimes, almost further away than when I lived in San Francisco.

For many months now - maybe nearing a year - I have been feeling a little like Rip Van Winkle, waking to find myself in a world different from what I knew when I went under the spell. But it's not just the surrounding world that feels changed; my inner world too, and the "container" through which I experience it, so that no aspect of life is untouched, and where I thought my feet were falling, suddenly the ground is different in quality, and the imprint of my presence too.

I have things on my mind I don't know how to say tonight. Maybe what I'm feeling is Spring, the lengthening days; or maybe it's the return of my embodiment. One feels a bit as in a dream sometimes, walking in the world insufficiently clothed. Just maybe what I'm feeling is an artistic breakthrough chipping at my fragile shell.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Recently, a Facebook friend, upon seeing some images of my work online, asked me about a shape that I use quite often in my compositions. It is a shape that I've been working with for the last few years, since 2009, having developed it through drawings of hourglasses. I was deeply preoccupied with time I was losing to recovery from an injury, the days passing, the years, and I chose the hourglass as a beautiful form and as a way to visually focus my preoccupation with time.

© 2009 Ravenna Taylor, ink, gouache, on found gameboard, 14 x 14 inches

Simultaneously, I also began using game boards as another way of visualizing time's passage, along with chance and choice, enjoying the historical evolution of gameboards alongside that of mapmaking. I recall that it all came together one day in the studio, when I picked up a gameboard I'd found at the flea market, and I started to paint in gouache within its format. Since then, I've continued to employ the quasi-triangular shape as an intrinsically interesting "character," and the grid as a way to explore the edges and tangent points of my feelings and thoughts; these are the main themes I have used as the structure for my work in recent years.

"Sorry," 2010, watercolor, gouache, 14.5 x 11.25 inches
© 2010 Ravenna Taylor

"Cross Roads," 2010, watercolor, 11 x 11 inches  © 2010 Ravenna Taylor

"Mount Of Knowledge," 2010, watercolor, gouache, 15 x 17.5 inches
© 2010 Ravenna Taylor

In my enjoyment of art of past centuries, I have at times almost envied the painters of the past, their commissions to paint the Annunciation, Saint Sebastian, Nativity, etc (not that I'd want to do that) -- I've seen so many such representations that I really don't see them at all anymore; what I see are the abstract qualities of the artists' interpretations: color choices, paint handling. In later centuries, dominant modes might be landscape, still life, or portraiture. In contemporary painting, we have an open field of possibilities for the generation of ideas.

"Coda," 2012, oil, linen, wood, 9 x 12 inches  © 2012 Ravenna Taylor

"Sound of Mind," 2011, oil on canvas, 21 x 23 inches © 2012 Ravenna Taylor

"Latitude," 2012, oil, linen, wood, 12 x 12 inches © 2012 Ravenna Taylor

In my own work, I honor the history of art. I compose my "pictures" to feel as though they might be representing something, without it being anything one might need to name or know. The shapes and forms of my compositions are necessary to me, but I don't need to tell that story or explain it. I just like to arrange and rearrange, juxtapose and recompose.

"Time Signatures," 2012, painted collage, 39 1/2 x 30 inches © 2012 Ravenna Taylor

In my next online-only exhibition, I will be showing some new work which continues to exploit the possibilities in these themes and subjects, alongside six works completed at intervals since 1999. The show is currently online, until April 14, at; there are twelve more images to be seen in the gallery archive, of work from 2011-12.

Photo credits, this post: Greg Benson Photo