Marjorie Taylor – Building Up

Building Up

Written by Jody Farrell
Photography by Sean Trostem

volunteer-image-webSmall wonder Marjorie Taylor thinks of herself as a builder. Her downstairs workspace, its shelves a veritable museum of mostly hand-fashioned, quasi-curated sculpted treasures, represents only some of this Grande Prairie artist’s need to create.

Apart from working daily at her art, the dedicated wife, mother and grandmother continues to participate in all manner of workshop, reception, exhibition, auction, and art-related courses both here and abroad. Her many years assisting and chairing various boards, associations and interest groups for historical, social, recreational and cultural ventures are acknowledged and admired by fellow community builders. She was a recipient of a Grande Prairie Rotary Paul Harris Fellow for long hours spent envisioning and fundraising for the prestigious Montrose Cutural Centre, which houses the city’s public library and art gallery. In a world often plagued by negativity and destruction, Marjorie is widely recognized for her positive input and support for new and creative endeavours.

So yes, a builder we’ll call her. But on this day, we’re talking specifically about her art.

IMG_4250-web“I just think there’s another way of looking at and reshaping things,” Marjorie explains of her builder’s perspective. “It’s always about the form or the shape for me. That seems to be what I explore over and over.”

As she discusses this or that artwork in her studio, her inspiration often turns to re-imagining and re-designing the subject’s original state. In painting works featured in her current exhibition at the Centre for Creative Arts, Marjorie employed early geometric wood sculptures as subject matter in her new renderings of two-dimensional, painted forms.

Small wonder Marjorie Taylor thinks of herself as a builder. Her downstairs workspace, its shelves a veritable museum of mostly hand-fashioned, quasi-curated sculpted treasures, represents only some of this Grande Prairie artist’s need to create.

IMG_2290-webApart from working daily at her art, the dedicated wife, mother and grandmother continues to participate in all manner of workshop, reception, exhibition, auction, and art-related courses both here and abroad. Her many years assisting and chairing various boards, associations and interest groups for historical, social, recreational and cultural ventures are acknowledged and admired by fellow community builders. She was a recipient of a Grande Prairie Rotary Paul Harris Fellow for long hours spent envisioning and fundraising for the prestigious Montrose Cutural Centre, which houses the city’s public library and art gallery. In a world often plagued by negativity and destruction, Marjorie is widely recognized for her positive input and support for new and creative endeavours.

So yes, a builder we’ll call her. But on this day, we’re talking specifically about her art.

“I just think there’s another way of looking at and reshaping things,” Marjorie explains of her builder’s perspective. “It’s always about the form or the shape for me. That seems to be what I explore over and over.”

As she discusses this or that artwork in her studio, her inspiration often turns to re-imagining and re-designing the subject’s original state. In painting works featured in her current exhibition at the Centre for Creative Arts, Marjorie employed early geometric wood sculptures as subject matter in her new renderings of two-dimensional, painted forms.

“I like to set up challenges for myself,” she says of her initial approach to creating. “Parameters help me from getting sidetracked. The goal is to keep focused. And to try to not make judgements.

main-image-web“In this [new abstract painting] series, I used a limited palette with yellow ochre, hansa yellow lemon, phthalo blue, white and burnt umber. I added pumice, and gel, to give it transparency. I began with vertical lines. It was really just about reading different things into them as you paint. Straight lines became almost like doors, then windows, then I added spheres inside the windows, and finally introduced my [geometric plywood] sculptures.”

The recent paintings, like so many before, feature mixed media with rough, heavy, tangible textures, that betray a desire to shape or handle their contents. Although Marjorie considers herself a painter first, it is her sculptures—this wide range of objects in every colour and size, made of wood, clay, foam, soapstone and found trinkets—that poke out of her shelves and cover her floorspace, vying for attention, invoking a sense of nostalgia, mischief and delight.

My personal favourites are the ceramic dresses which, for Marjorie, illustrate the complexity of our gender. “I can’t deny what I am; what I was. A young woman, lots of kids, a product of the prairie. Raising children; all the many things we do. We aren’t just this one person. Different dresses signify these: The caregiver, the everyday mom, the fancy, feminine self. They are part of our fabric, part of who we are.”

While visiting the city several years ago, the interdisciplinary artist Rita McKeough spotted Marjorie’s colourfully-glazed, hand-built clay dresses, and made a video of them along with her hand-built shoes, which she rarely makes in pairs because they are so hard to replicate.

Each medium presents its own set of challenges. Clay, as opposed to wood, is a more malleable substance. Still, Marjorie has had to adapt it to suit her own creative style. She does not use a wheel.

IMG_4226-web“I can’t throw,” she admits. “I just make a mess. Clay on a wheel has to be symmetrical and centred and finished very well. I hand-build, working up a form, then taking away. Sometimes I have an idea but the process is also
very intuitive.”

And while painting necessitates “working for days on end to keep the flow going,” clay allows for relaxation. Kept sufficiently moist, it can sit and be worked on when there’s time and inspiration.

Marjorie points to two rather abstract clay figures dressed in long flowing coats whose bumps and bulges give a sense of heavy, textured fabric. These sculptures, which remind me of long-ago oriental warriors, have been sitting for six months, waiting for her to decide if, and how, they will be glazed. She doesn’t like to paint specific designs, yet is afraid to apply glaze in her usual, rather random fashion. She is struggling with the fact that these figures’ coats might require a different, more orderly approach.

Other ‘unfinished’ work alludes to Marjorie’s prairie upbringing, where everything was seen to either have a purpose, or be re-purposed, by elders who had lived through hard economic times. These sculptures are done lightly, with humour, in a way that both pays homage to and transforms the original subject matter.

In one such piece, leftover pumice was sculpted into two balls and covered with mounds of used-up paint. The balls, set onto two metal spikes, look like crater-covered planets. From a distance, their tiny multi-coloured peaks and valleys appear inhabited and are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s dustspeck that contained Whoville’s residents.

Another ongoing sculpture features found objects on a trail of wire, accommodating threadless spools, buttons, beads, earrings, faucet pieces, pins, and a butterfly. Nearby shelves house series of small, shiny, glazed pears with real stems; tiny hand-built shoes, slab-built vessels, soapstone carvings, and painted clay.

IMG_4215-webA single ceramic sculpture—a working girl in a yellow hardhat and blue coveralls—stands alone among the carefully organized collections. I ask about her origin.

“We were going to have a dance,” Marjorie recalls. “I got on board, [making the sculpture]. It was going to be a fundraiser, a western night; an oilpatch theme. That was back in 1999. It would have been so much fun…”

Somehow, the fundraiser never got off the ground. But as the hand-built, hard-hatted working woman will attest, it was not for a lack of concrete effort on the part of Marjorie Taylor.


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