Kevin Earl Taylor, Big and Dark

Kevin let me into his studio at Root Division in San Francisco last week. What a treat! His work is the kind of lush visual thing that both great dreams and great essays come from. He doesn’t heap on the psychology in any kind of encumbering way, but rather is just genuinely honest with his content which is at once dark and surprisingly humorous. Kevin is gearing up for a big show in LA so there are many pictures I am not posting because you gotta go to LA to seem ’em. Believe me they are worth the trip. Click here to link to Kevin’s Web Site. -obi

Kevin is preparing for a show at the Shooting Gallery in September that will be super cool, no doubt.

obi: Why the fascination with animals? Is it animals? ecology? genetic engineering?

Kevin: i’ve always been close to animals. i had a goat, a rabbit, turtles, dog, and bugs when i was little. i’m allergic to horses and cats. I used to try and catch squirrels and birds in harmless handmade traps in my backyard. i liked to catch snakes and lightning bugs. i was a little nature freak running around in the woods in south carolina. i grew up in nature. i even used to go hunting with my uncles, but i was always hesitant to kill anything, although i did blast a couple doves one time so my uncle wouldn’t think i was a total wuss. I only eat seafood, though, so I made him and his family eat them and I felt lame about that. i grew up fishing with my grandparents. we went out on the lake most days of the week and i caught lots of “rockfish” (striped bass) including one that weighed about as much as me when I was only 5 all by myself- got him in the boat and everything. beyond that, i find animals much more interesting than humans overall, especially when it comes to making imagery. the animal kingdom is so vast and much is still unknown. animals can’t speak our language so there’s such mystery about them. it’s all so fascinating to me. genetic and environmental issues play some part in my work, but more like a silent partner. I’m not that worried about the earth itself. We don’t have the capability of destroying it as a physical object, but we do have the capability of destroying the environment that allows us to exist upon it. So it’s kind of what we deserve if we screw that up. I don’t want to be a voice that equates “the world” with an environment condusive to human inhabitance. they’re two entirely different things. Hopefully through my work, I can help keep the plight of those with no voice on the tips of human tongues and minds of men.

Obi: How do you respond to people who remark on the darkness in your compositions?

Kevin: I hear the word “dark” a lot when people ask about my work. I’m pretty used to it. Sometimes they say it like it might rattle me. It’s quite funny to me, actually. Usually that person has seen more darkness in one day than I see in a whole year because they watch television and I don’t. If you want to see real darkness, just look there. I will say that I’m fascinated by mortality and images that stop a viewer in their tracks. I want to make something people don’t forget easily. Something that makes folks restless. I grew accustomed to “dark” art probably through growing up around punk records and skateboard graphics. Bands like Crass, and Dead Kennedys’ album covers and graphics like Kryptonics’ Ripstik come to mind. It’s just a language that I can speak with. To me, it’s not dark, because I don’t take it so incredibly seriously. It’s serious, sure, but it’s also just paint on a piece of wood. When I watch a horror movie, I tend to think about the people standing around drinking coffee behind the cameras text messaging their friends about where they’re going to eat sushi later. I find it an amazing phenemon that someone could actually be scared by a movie- let alone a painting. Once a guy talked my ear off about my work like he was really interested in it, but it was a whole lead up to telling me I should come to his church since my soul obviously needed guidance. It is a great hope of mine that my work continues to offend and puzzle those kinds of assholes.

Obi: Formally, how do you choose to go big or go small? What is your relationship to the scale of your images?
Kevin: well, 9 times out of 10 i start out with the size before i know what the piece will be. i grab a lot of scrap from piles and sometimes people give me stuff. I’m pretty selective about the proportions, though. sometimes i know i’m just looking for an “almost square” piece of wood, or a “long and tall piece of wood”. my friend Heidi works at amnesia and they were getting rid of 3 door panels. she called me and asked if i wanted them. i hailed a van cab and threw em in the back and took them to my studio, looked at them and decided what i wanted to make. so in that case, that’s how i decided to go big. i go small when i’m at work sitting at a desk in the computer lab. it’s more of a form follows function thing to me, but occasionally i do have a specific plan for a piece. it’s hard to think of painting a huge beast like a whale on a 5″ notecard. I do love working big best though. It’s easier to make sloppy paint double as intense detail.

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