Taylor Kennedy, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of May 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Taylor some questions about her work and studio practice:
Q: Please tell us about your background?
I was raised in Sodus Point, NY ( which is a 30 minute drive North of Clifton Springs). I attended the Rochester Institute of Technology and graduated in 2015 with my BFA in Fine Art Studio. While in my last year at RIT, I realized I was not done with my education. I was just hitting my stride in my practice and wanted the safety (haha) and challenge of a MFA program. I was very lucky to get into Pratt Institute, as I was even younger and less “experienced” in the art world then. So, I moved to Brooklyn in August of 2015. It was hard, but it was what I needed. I graduated from Pratt in 2017 with my MFA in Printmaking. I stayed in the city until this past February, when I moved back home.
I have been drawing ever since I can remember. My family has a “knack” for artistry; vocally, instrumentally, written and visually. My generation has been the only one to pursue full fledged artistic careers. I think we saw how much our parents/uncles/aunts wished they devoted more time to the arts. That is not to say it is easy, making a career in the arts; because it is fucking hard. But I can’t see myself as anything else.
I’ve worked as a teaching artist. An artist assistant. A nanny. A dog walker. A house-sitter. Living the stereotype of an artist. But these are all jobs that add to your practice, that give you insight. Make you real. Currently, I work as a substitute teacher.
Q: How would you describe your work?
Oh boy, I am laughing as write this. It is, for lack of a better word, my diary. I have gotten slack for my work being too “cathartic” or “therapeutic” as I speak so much of my personal background. I don’t think I would get that critique if I was a man, but I keep making it.
My work is my memory. Or memoir. Or ode to my family, as ironic as that may seem. Or all of the above.
I think there is a universal language felt when looking at imagery that was created to speak to the poignancy felt in everyday family life. At least, that is what I am trying to poke at. I have seen and felt heartache and loss, divorce, suicide, addiction, alcoholism and mental illness. But I have also seen and felt middle class pride, true love, perseverance, and growth. They work in tandem, the dysfunctions and the functions. That’s life.
As families, we live our lives in cycles. In patterns. Sometimes, we think we break them, but I have come to find that we recreate those cycles in some other form. Across generations. Across bloodlines.
When I speak of family, I am not only speaking of my blood relations. I am speaking of my friends. Or the people I snap pictures of on the street that are sharing a moment. Or even animals. Inanimate objects telling a metaphorical familial story.
We are all related, in some way. That is what I want my work to evoke.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Right now, I have a bank of reference pictures I draw from. That includes old personal family photos, photos I have taken and stock images I find on the internet.
For a drawing, I lay out a piece of paper, print out what reference photos are speaking to me, and start a layout in pencil or vine charcoal. Sometimes, I cut out parts. Sometimes, I add aspects of other reference photos. Sometimes, I go on memories I can still visualize in my head. It depends on that exact moment. I have been trying to be more considerate of composition, leading me to make collages of the reference photos I am thinking of using.
I follow it. I try to not plan too hard. I make notes on the paper, or the walls if I can, if I have thoughts related to my practice (which, if you haven’t noticed, is everything in my life). If it calls for becoming sculptural or an installation, I listen to it. You have to listen to the work. Sit with it. I don’t like to kill work. That is the worst.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I am going to work on illustrating a children’s book that was written by my aunt, Sara Kennedy. It is going to be a challenge, seeing that I am not necessarily a “planner” and more intuitive in my process. But it is a challenge I look forward too, as it is going to be a way of learning to simplify compositions that are strong in their convictions. The imagery needs to read as if the text was not there. The studio has printmaking equipment that I will take advantage of; I envision creating mixed media illustrations using drawing, collage and printing.
I also plan on getting some painting done. I am not a painter. Not at all. Painting is really hard. And not everyone realizes how hard painting is/that they should not be painting, because they are not painters. But, I have a ton of canvas and paint, so why not challenge myself even more? That will be more personally based. I am envisioning a large tableau-style painting of a pick-up truck right now. I’ll get back to you on if that comes to fruition.
Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
My body. Your body is your number one tool. I have never been an athlete, never into exercise, but if you want to make it as an artist, you need to keep yourself healthy, physically and mentally. I have carpal tunnel in my dominate hand. Arthritis, MS, and Fibromyalgia run in my family. I am trying to get myself strong. What is the point of making large things if you cannot physically handle them?
Tape is good too. You can make anything with a roll of tape.
Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer. Toyin Ojih Odutola. Nicole Eisenman. Genieve Figgis. Kerry James Marshall. Egon Schiele. Alice Neel. Red Grooms. Marisol Escobar.
They are storytellers. They were/are transparent. I think it is honest. Their work is not trying to be “art”, it just is.
Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
Kids make the best work. And they have no idea, which makes it even better. So schools, the backs of homework, scraps of paper, desks. Anywhere a kid would create.
Q: Do you collect artwork? Tell us about your collection.
I do, a little. I have work of my peers and of young artists (kids) I have taught. The adult work I have mostly because of trading them with my own work. The kid work I have is because it was gifted to me or I commissioned it. I would rather pay a child to make me something than an adult.
I suppose I am a sentimental sucker at heart. But that is the only way to be.
Q: What’s next for you?
At this moment, making dinner. I am trying really hard to not think ahead. I am an anxious person; I have to teach myself to live in the moments.