The exhibit of Maggie Taylor’s work, “Subject to Change” at Candela Gallery in Richmond, Virginia, is an intriguing and fanciful collection of photographs that seem like artifacts unearthed from the Victorian era and re-assembled by a surrealist archaeologist. Taylor’s images are like a book covers – the viewer can imagine the story unfolding from the clues embedded in each image.
Maggie Taylor’s contemporary vision and digital imaging techniques brings together a combination of daguerrotype frames, 19th Century portraits, and a rich assortment trinkets, vegetation, clouds, and butterflies to create a fascinating portal into a magic reality. In Maggie Taylor’s world, men can tow clouds, pigs fly with delicate butterfly wings, and women stand stoically in front of their homes dressed in either ivy or field stones.
In one sense many of Taylor’s images appear to have fallen out of a scientist’s experiment logbook from another era. In “The burden of dreams” (above), we seem to be looking at an English aristocrat through the porthole of his magic flying machine as he navigates far above the clouds – the wind ruffles through an impossibly complicated headdress with flowers, vines, insects, rabbits, and birds. In “The nest” a young woman calmly holds a hornet’s nest as she is fully protected by her aviator goggles and lavish dress. Many of her images have a subtle reference to scientific inquiry, but it is a magic science where human heads are exchanged for a fish heads or other animals; a Victorian child herds a zoo of exotic and common animals together in “But who has won?“.
The hornet’s nest is used in several images and perhaps it is a symbol for trouble as defined by the cliché. Either way, the characters in Maggie Taylors images have it under control!
Taylor’s work images our cultural myths about women, ruling over nature, and childhood innocence. In “The burden of dreams”, the male archetype is depicted as a confident explorer of the farthest reaches of the planet; given the cornucopia of exotic plants and animals flowing from his head, it is easy to imagine that he is on his way to a tropical rainforest to register great scientific discoveries.
In “The patient gardener” and “Woman in a stone skirt”, the female archetype is depicted in direct correlation to a symbolic home (represented by a small picturesque house), but in very different roles and with contrasting emotional qualities. In one image an ivy-clothed woman reveals one eye and and a breast while gracefully gesturing towards a glowing house; she is surrounded by magic blue butterflies that flit around the moonlight landscape. It appears that Home is the magical locus for sensual delight and the woman stands as a signpost showing the way.
The setting for “Woman in a stone skirt” seems to be an open prairie meadow where a buttoned-up woman, whose head is neatly severed and missing above the collar, is anchored to the landscape with a full skirt made of stones. Home, depicted as the same size and in the same relation to the woman in the frame, looks secure and safe, but a little lonely and certainly not glowing with mystical powers. A dog with an empty plate sits, waiting to be fed; the woman holds a serving cup, clearly in charge of the essential task of providing sustenance. Woman is again depicted as a signpost, but this time with a more dour appearance – the nurturer overseeing a stable household, but emotionally drained. Has her head become transformed into the cloud floating over the house? It is like security and stability have vaporized the woman’s intellect and desire.
“Subject to Change” is well-curated and installed. The works follow a logical sequence and create connections for the viewer. Candela Books + Gallery is the best private photography exhibit space in the Richmond region and the Washington D.C. area. Additional publications on Maggie Taylor’s work are available for viewing and purchase at the gallery.
There are many more intriguing images in the exhibit, which is accessible for viewers of any age. Each of Maggie Taylor’s photographs are the start to a mesmerizing story that the viewer completes in their imagination.
Gallery, Candela Books +. (2013). Maggie Taylor: Subject to Change; March 1 – April 27, 2013. Retrieved 3/17/2013, 2013, from https://candelabooks.com/gallery/