Tiffani Taylor has spent the past three years balancing her work as curator for her eponymous gallery and head of the Savannah Art Walk, with her pursuit of an MFA in painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her herculean efforts would typically have been rewarded by a gallery exhibition and the chance to celebrate her convocation with the rest of the class of 2020.
This year, however, is anything but typical.
"It was disappointing knowing that we wouldn’t have a physical graduation." Taylor told me by telephone. "But why waste time on feeling disappointed or angry or sad? Just go forward and focus on gratitude and the things we do have control over."
Knowing Taylor, who exudes positivity, her viewpoint isn’t a surprise. But looking at the work in "Meditations in Nature and Art: The Journey to Peace," the denouement to her time at the Savannah institution, I couldn’t help but feel that we should all be a bit disappointed to not have had the opportunity to celebrate with her at a more traditional opening reception.
Thankfully, however, Taylor has done an excellent job of digitizing the experience.
"So I made a goal of having an online catalog," she explained. "Where people can actually flip through pages of the paintings with descriptions."
Additionally, Taylor created an online reception where she unveiled an informative and well-produced video where she takes viewers through the exhibition. It includes snippets of information from her thesis, as well as important insights into individual paintings that add to the enjoyment of said piece by adding context.
"I used to expect people to read my mind and experience the painting as I’d intended." Taylor said. "Throughout the MFA program I’ve realized that from my materials, to subject matter, to intent, it’s important to be communicative and to take the time to do so."
It’s one of the great advantages to be had by the current need to avoid the type of large gatherings that characterize a more standard brick and mortar gallery event: You can actually hear from the artist. Usually at a busy opening it can be hard to get more than a minute or two of face time with the creator of the work, let alone get anywhere close to an intimate experience with the art itself. Moreover, with the opening going online, one can "be there" no matter where they reside physically.
"My mom…said last night, ‘Wow, like our relatives in Wyoming were able witness this and experience it,’" Taylor beamed, "and my friends in Paris we able to as well. But there’s this globalized connectivity and just communication that’s happening that would not have happened otherwise. Some beautiful things are being born of this."
The aforementioned digital catalogue of the exhibition contains nine paintings ranging in size from the 12" x 12" "Morning Meditation: Lazaretto Creek" up to the "60" x 80" "Doe in an Aspen Tree Grove, Wyoming…," with a variety of sizes in-between. They utilize acrylic and oil paint, as well as less common materials such as liquid gold, sheet music, and even soil sprayed onto the canvas in the case of "Moon River."
More than just the being beautifully rendered compositions, however, the show also chronicles Taylor’s life journey and her quest to marry the various parts of her being.
In the work and her life she asks herself the questions, "What composes you? What makes you who you are?" Noting that, "when you think what you feel, and what you say is what you feel and what you think, there’s a harmony and a purity in that."
"For me that meant going back even to childhood and taking ownership of my past." Said Taylor. "Really unearthing it… And having the courage to sit with it."
"Just setting our ego aside, and just sitting with the emotions. Feelings of sadness and depression…can also be beautiful moments of stillness. It’s not just all light and love. It’s the dark that accentuates the light."
The online catalog for Tiffani Taylor’s "Meditations in Nature and Art: The Journey to Peace," can be found at www.tiffanitaylor.com/thesis-exhibition, and her opening reception video can be viewed on the Tiffani Taylor Gallery YouTube page.
Listen to our entire conversation embedded here. Next week I’ll be discussing the financial impact that the health crisis has had on local artists, and the ways that some are overcoming those challenges.
Tune in to "Art on the Air" every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM in Savannah, and streaming worldwide at www.wruu.org.
Art off the Air is a digital-only column that is posted every week on dosavannah.com as a companion piece to the WRUU 107.5 FM show "Art on the Air."
Rob Hessler is an artist, host of the radio show Art on the Air on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah, and Executive Director of Bigger Pie, a Savannah-based arts advocacy organization.