Max Taylor Artist Interview: Upcoming Solo Exhibition at BCD

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Talk about your use of photographic techniques alongside drawing and mark making.

I love that I can use photography to lift my drawings/sketches/freeform ideas from impermanent materials like paper and recreate them onto more tangible materials like canvas/wood/metal through my darkroom process. It allows me to create solid pieces out of spontaneous ideas. The idea of 'locking' in a drawings progress through a photograph is also comforting to me and allows me mental freedom to push my work further. I like the idea of sacrifice in artwork, but it can be terrifying adding new layers to works with dozens of hours already invested. Although its not in my nature to cash in on the policy, the idea of “insuring” my work through photography and the idea I could recreate the image from an earlier state allows me the mental clarity to push deeper into unknown territory.

What is your process when deciding to create a particular image?

I keep my process very loose. I used to assume too much control over my process and not handle the “failures” with much grace. I could really beat myself up over such simple things. I had to learn to let go and enjoy the ride. Some of my favorite works came from mistakes/accidents/technical failure. I still epically bomb pieces frequently, to the point where there is just nothing visually or energetically compelling left, but I use these pieces as starting layers for new paintings or test material for practicing new technique.

As far as selection, I usually have an idea of what kind of energy I want to create, lay out all my slides and start to pull everything that intrigues me in the moment. I load it all into my slide projector and get a loose frame on the materials I will be printing on. Then I just cycle, until one of them speaks to me. Once it does, the frenzy begins. Deciding which is the hardest part of the process.

How did you get interested in photography, and what brought you to the Bushwick Community Darkroom?

Hurricane Sandy! What a crazy surreal experience. I had just committed mentally to quitting my job and was feeling very lost. I had invested pretty much my entire life into a career I found I had no interest in having and a life that was toxic and unfulfilling. When Sandy hit I was living on Water St. in the Financial District of NYC. There were fish in our lobby. The whole area, which for so long in my head I held as the center of the world (Wall Street) was all the sudden transformed into some apocalyptic wasteland. For the first time I felt engaged and interested. I was forced into an adventure. I lived alone in a building meant for 3,500 people, walking 30 flights of stairs with nothing but the light of a glowstick. Maybe that spooky stairwell was foreshadowing the darkroom. I lived this way for 30 days, alone in a skyscraper, thinking and reflecting. I wanted to capture or document how bizarre it was, but the cell phone camera wasn't cutting it. After the storm I bought my first camera and was hooked from the second frame (first was the inside of my lens cap).

I enjoyed photography immensely, but after two years I felt it lacking a physical component. I wanted to be working with my hands more. I heard about this goo called liquid light and was curious what could be made with it. BCD welcomed me and my weird experiments with open arms and for that I am so grateful. Love you Lucia!

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Tell us about the characters in your work. You seem to focus somewhat on portraits of mysterious women, as well as shadow-enshrouded, anthropomorphic characters. Is there a story which ties these characters together?

This is something I hope to figure out at my show! I tend to create without thinking, without purpose. I create to create and then study my work for meaning. See what the back of my mind was trying to say. Why did I chase the impulses that led me to create each piece. Many of these things come from dreams or stray flickers of thought. If you see me sprint away mid-conversation to write or sketch, I swear I am not trying to be rude! But it becomes a race to capture that flicker before it fades. I love my nonsensical monsters. They make me happy. They have stories and make noises. I became too serious at too early an age and I think my monsters may just be my mind wanting to play.

I like shooting woman with powerful energy. The capture is about the energy, not the subject; it is rare to see eyes or eye contact within my work. Eyes belong to individuals and by sharing the eyes I think it isolates the viewer from fully identifying with the energy of the photograph. Without eyes, the person could be anyone.

How important is the process of making an artist print to you, versus the final product?

I really love the idea of Craft. Knowing the intricacies and specifics of how things are actually made across a range of mediums, conditions, materials, etc. But at the end, these are all tools for final result. I am focused most on process and craft right now so that I can pursue bigger and more complex ideas. This is a hard question to answer. It feels a bit like chicken and egg. The final product for me is decades away, or maybe unattainable. I suppose all final works are part of the process, and the final product is Me.

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What do you aim to communicate with your upcoming solo exhibition?

I am so thrilled for the opportunity to lay ALL my work out. To have such a large space to spread my work and start to find out how it all connects together. As much as this will be an exhibition, it is a chance for me to learn. I create mostly without thinking, from the back of my mind. Subconscious and unconscious. I create first and then look for meaning. I believe the back of the mind governs so much more of our action than we give it credit for. Not everything we know is accessible through thought. Gut feelings. Intuition. Are those flickers of stray thought truly random? Or is there a message there from some other part of the brain. These things interest me.

What are your current projects, and plans for future photo series and artworks?

So many. Art feels truly infinite. The more I look at it, the bigger it gets. I would name some specifics, but I know that I thrive on spontaneity. I am just pulling a thread and seeing where it takes me. So follow along @beerandcabfare and let me surprise you! I am warming up to sculpture right now.

-Max Taylor

www.maxtaylorphotography.com