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Writings on C​arol Taylor-Kearney



By James Saslow, Ph.D.


















When I attended the opening of this (…Or Curse the Darkness) show, my eye immediately went to this work.  Because it is not only one of the most elaborate works in the exhibition, but also one of the most complex and profound.  A continuous leitmotif across all the panels is the American flag:  a highly charged symbol also appear(ing) in other works in this exhibition and referenced in the red-white-blue balloons of Veterans Day in a Border Town.


Flag symbolism can cut both ways:  it can evoke either mindless rah-rah patriotism or be a symbol of loss or danger.  Here the flag is sometimes hung backward, evoking the traditional distress symbol, that is, a flag upside down.  And it seems to keep fading away or fragmenting, as if endangered or dying.


The work "prayer" in the work's title alerts us to a plea for some correction of that threat to our body politic.  Altogether this is a seven-panel work, which recalls the medieval-Renaissance polyptech altarpiece, in its format as well as iits title, that is, many related images grouped together to imply a larger narrative.  That narrative is implicitly about a national crisis-- certainly the mood of this cultural moment.


But that story is complicated, and its overall meanings are not fully spelled out.


Which marks the work as art rather than propaganda.  Propaganda, like Trump's tweets, is blunt, single-minded, and insistent.  Here we have a series of more subtle scenes, reading from the smiling infant at the top to the young boy at the bottom.  Implicitly, there's some progression from scene to scene: through the times of life, and, as the individuall panel's titles tell us, from Space to Earth.


All the scenes focus on hands, in various archetypal actions.  The colors, too, hint at a story from top to bottom:


Blue for fidelity and trust, as the parental hand reaches out for the infant's upraised palm, in an echo of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.  White for purity and innocence, as growing hands learn to play music.  Then the first note of trouble: red for fire and light, in this case, a slow glow of those stubby white candles lit at vigils for every progressive cause or protest.  This same motif is central to the artist's other painting, to the left, joining the chilling anxiety of social protest to warmer themes of solidarity and hope.  Then green, for nature, with its hands washing as if in some ritual of purification.  And finally, a panel in yellow ochre, one of painting's classic earth pigments.  The boy's hands in a pot of something dark prefigure the last, bottom scene, where he seems to have scooped out some vague muck and, as kids will do, squeezes it through his fingers.


To be honest, I'm not sure I understand all the multiple ideas and symbols so richly layered in this somewhat enigmatic work.  If I could reduce it to a single, tidy "thematic statement," I suspect that the artist would be disappointed.  Her work could then be dismissed as more propaganda than art.  We know which side of the current political fence she's on.  And we know that she is offering some glimmer of hope amid the current gloom.  Beyond that, we have to keep looking and thinking - which is the ultimate compliment to a work of art.


James Saslow  [Atlantic Gallery, NYC, June 1 2017]

James M. Saslow is a graduate of Princeton and Columbia universities.  For many years he was the New York Arts
Editor for The Advocate.  He is a professor in the Department of Art at Queens College and the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York. His books include Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and
Society; A Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Art.  Co-edited with Babette Bohn; Pictures and Passions:
A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts; The Medici Wedding of 1589: Florentine Festival as
"theatrum mundi"; The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation.  
Arcadian Dreams at Atlantic Gallery
By Roberta Waddell, Ph.D.

I stopped by Atlantic Gallery  to see {Carol Taylor-Kearney's} show.  (Earlier in the week I received the beautiful catalog--thank you!).  I was impressed how well you could weave together scenes and events, happening in the present with those, vivid, yet in the past, made idyllic in memory---equally real in the mind's eye. Your choice of support---windows, a door---so expressive of that past/present permeability of heartfelt experience, experiences so much of a part of our being, they can't be contained within the confines of a frame. 


I definitely didn't find the presence of children sentimental---in fact, I felt you expressed through them, a poignancy for memories, as we have reshaped them in our wishes… tender, funny, beautifully painted, and very human.

          Roberta Waddell was formerly Curator of Prints at The New York Public Library.  Shel has organized numerous exhibitions on
       Old Master prints, modern and contemporary prints, photographs and illustrated books. At the Library her primary
           responsibilities were for the public service of the Print  Room’s original print and reference collections, and for the ongoing
building of the Print Collection, with a particular emphasis on contemporary prints and artists’ books.  
The Artwork of Carol Taylor-Kearney
By Fred B. Adelson, Ph.D.

Carol Taylor-Kearney’s art is informed by life and life-affirming.  Like the artist’s ebullient personality, her work is celebratory and energetic.  With an array of recognizable objects, vivid colors, painterly surfaces, and mixed materials, she creates engaging narratives using representational images and discarded materials, enabling the ordinary to become extraordinary.

Taylor-Kearney’s art has a commanding presence that is both figurative and literal, bridging painting and sculpture.  Her assemblages have imposing scale derived from the architectural fragments that become her framework, while they possess an idiosyncratic theatricality from the numerous objects that are affixed to and hang from these surfaces.  Robert Rauschenberg stated:  “Painting relates to both art and life (I try to act in that gap between the two).” Likewise, Taylor-Kearney admits: “my artwork is accumulation. . . I gather found objects and found ideas.”  The impact of actual size, handling of space, use of materials, and brushwork must be directly experienced or much is missed.    Her intriguing paintings go beyond the boundaries of what many may consider a traditional picture.  They are not easy to classify.  

Never satisfied with the limitations of the flat picture plane, the artist moves back and forth between illusionistic (sometimes even quirky) and real space, while she assimilates a diverse range of art historical sources.  In spite of her academic art training, she deliberately opts for windows and doors rather than canvas as support material.The observer literally looks through a real frame to the distant painted background.  This certainly adds another conceptual level to the notion of the Renaissance window view of reality.   Duchamp’s “Etant Donnes” also comes immediately to mind.  Moreover, she incorporates a variety of found objects—many are whimsical items from pop culture, including a provocative dollop of kitsch. 

Taylor-Kearney’s multiple panels are actual window panes.  With her reverse painting on glass, she revives what had been a rather popular form of vernacular art from the late 19th century.  Her images are akin to animation cells, yet they don’t appear to tell full stories.  The separate figurative scenes may be physically close but aren’t necessarily connected as a continuous narrative; they seem more like snippets from stream of consciousness, meditation or private reverie.  In addition, she has effectively and creatively used metal screening to construct images that become shadowy figures or dreamy visions. 

The artist relies on family and friends as models, making the paintings autobiographical. However, the people are not identified, so they retain protective anonymity.  Much of the work is done in her Philadelphia studio, aided by photographs for most of her figure drawing.  However, the actual landscape imagery is often painted en plein air.  This can become a rather cumbersome undertaking, since she has to transport her large windows or door panels to scenic destinations.

When Michelangelo proclaimed:  “The nearer painting approaches sculpture the better it is,” he seems to have prophetically and unwittingly praised Carol Taylor-Kearney.

          Fred B. Adelson is a Professor of Art History at Rowan University.  He has written on art for many publications including

         the N.Y. Times, the Grove Dictionary of Art and the Encyclopedia of American Art.


Cliches, Positively
By Edward Sozanski

Can anything positive be said about cliches?  Carol Taylor-Kearney has found a way.  Her exhibition of paintings attempt to prove that, in her words, "cliches encompass a truth and usefulness.  From sheer repetition, cliche...bridges gaps of awkwardness, boredom, restraint, and confusion."

It's an intriguing idea, and Taylor-Kearney expresses it primarily through a suite of 22 oil paintings hung around the gallery in a continuous band. The scenes have the casual look of family photographs or home videos.  People are either consciously posing or caught in awkward moments.

These snapshots from suburbia qualify as cliches only in the broadest sense of being familiar image types, such as people building a snowman and a man posed with three tots perched on a tree limb.

Taylor-Kearney has outfitted most of her subjects with sunglasses or goofy party glasses, to encourage her audience to focus on the narrative situations rather than personalities.  This tactic works to a limited extent, but it doesn't push the viewer beyond the obvious typological cliches.

Repetition, as the artist says, may strip an image of its original vitality.  Yet in this case it does not; as she concludes,  allow "each painting [to] find new life in its own circumstance."

Edward Sozanski.  THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.  Friday, September 9, 2005.


Wenonah Resident Has Show in Indiana
By Kelly Roncace

An old, four-pane window with a worn, wooden frame, sitting in a pile of debris on a curb in a Wenonah neighborhood has no chance of making it to the trash dump.  Resident Carol Taylor-Kearney will be sure to turn that rejected portal into a colorful work of art.

“I was walking around Wenonah and there were a lot of people getting their houses fixed or doing construction,” said artist Taylor-Kearney. “There were windows in the trash with a ‘Free’ sign, so I picked them up and thought I would bring them as palettes for my (art) classes.  However, when her students at Rowan University — where she is an adjunct professor of art — failed to clean the paint off the glass, she noticed how beautiful the colors looked from the opposite side of the clear pane. She began to research reverse painting on glass and found she had a calling for the craft.

Her calling to art itself had begun when she was just a child.  “Like most people, I always drew,” she said. “My mom tells the story of how when I was a little kid, I wanted to draw people. So she told me the story of the rectangle boy with a triangle hat who had a circular sister who was round and fat.”  That story provided inspiration for her first drawings. Then she went to St. Margaret’s school where the Italian nuns were very interested in art and would give the students drawing lessons.  “Then in high school, I wasn’t allowed to take art because I was in honors classes,” she said. “So, during my study halls, I went to the art room. That’s how I took art.”

After high school, Taylor-Kearney attended Glassboro State College, then went on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she later worked as the coordinator of grad programs.  Today, Taylor-Kearney, mother of three and wife of 30 years, has brought her art back home to Gloucester County.  “I recently moved my studio from Philly to Mantua,” she said. “It’s nice to say, ‘OK, today I’m going to get everything done that I didn’t do over the weekend, then I’ll go to the studio and work until 9, and do what I want. If you have to travel to the studio, you have to set up a regular schedule. Now, I can just walk there.”

Pieces from Taylor-Kearney’s most recent works, the “In the Studio” series, are currently on display at the Jasper Community Arts Center in Jasper, IN.  The series began as a “contemplation on conceptual blending, a cognitive theory about the fluidity of thought and connections,” she said.  

“Whenever I talk to an artist about their work, I always wish there was a ‘Creative Function MRI’ machine that could provide images of their thoughts at a moment in time in their artistic development,” she said. “As for me, the studio is a place associated with my production. I have used it in this series as a metaphor and a linchpin to this work.”

Her favorite subject, and what inspires her work the most, is the world and the people in it.  “The world doesn’t exist if not for people,” she said. “The world, watching people in the world and the interactions of relationships is what inspires me.”

Her “In the Studio” series is a reflection of thoughts and feelings about the things she has read, done or seen. “When creating, it’s a multi-step process,” she said. “Even when I’m done a project enough to show someone, I’m always creating it.”  Taylor-Kearney said she usually starts with a word, idea or plan, and works from there.  “Windows already have a format, so if it has eight panes, I’ll have eight ideas,” she said. “Or if it has one pane, but sometimes I break the rules.”  

Though she doesn’t sell her work out of her new Mantua studio, she said she does often have visitors.  “Sometimes people just come in and look around,” she said.  The walls inside the small, white building on the corner of Mantua Boulevard and Main Street, are lined with paintings and “sculptures” created by Taylor-Kearney during her long career.  

One piece, born out of a wooden storm door that was blown off a 3rd Street home during high winds in Philadelphia, represents a tough time in the artist’s life.  “This one is about my heart surgery,” Taylor-Kearney said of the decorative door hung inside a standing frame secured on a wooden platform.  The front of the piece is merely a ghost of Taylor-Kearney’s silhouette covered in items she received while in the hospital nearly four years ago for her surgery.  The back of the door is an anime-style portrayal of herself.  “It’s an icon of me,” she said. “The doll is from when I was a child, and if you look inside, she has a heart.”

For more information about Taylor-Kearney’s art, visit

Kelly Roncace.  GLOUCESTER COUNTY TIMES.  April 28, 2011.


For additional writings and catalogue essays, please visit the contact page to request additional information.

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