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Between Heaven and Earth

2/20/2013

“Pink Knife,” 2005, by Ana Mercedes Hoyos (Colombian, b. 1942) at Steven Vail Galleries.

“Pink Knife,” 2005, by Ana Mercedes Hoyos (Colombian, b. 1942) at Steven Vail Galleries.

Painter Madai Taylor is a complex holy man who preaches to his congregation literally from the Bible but paints religious abstractions. He admits these contradictory postures can be misinterpreted as a conflict.

“I do wonder how people embrace the duality of my being a non-subjective artist and a preacher. I even question it myself sometimes. Do the two things complement or combat each other? Outsiders can be confused by the abstract works and religious people sometimes are unable to embrace abstraction at all,” he explained.

As a professional artist, Taylor is aware that most marketable religious art is representational — clearly depicting sacred events. Yet he identifies with a more abstract spirituality, one that predates Jesus Christ. “The Abstract Expressionists were spiritual people in a non-denominational way, going back to the cave paintings of the Neolithic Age. That’s why I work in abstraction. Abstraction does not need to be complicated. It needs to speak for itself, not to academia. Life itself is abstract. Nothing about it makes perfect sense, even love and peace are mysteries,” he said.

Taylor’s self-invented method abstracts its media from the earth. He has exclusively used dirt to make his “paints” considering this a metaphor for the unity of spirit between man and nature under God. “Earth has a spiritual quality of all that is human. We are dust and shall return to dust as the Bible teaches. Dirt is also our sustenance; it provides the food we need to live and to grow. I identify with dirt; it has a calming effect on me. It’s tactile. People want to touch my paintings,” he reflected.

Taylor farms his paint from the land on which he treads — loamy, black dirt from local fields, lighter-colored dirt from the famous gypsum mines that made Fort Dodge the “dry wall center of mid-America” and red dirt from the Mississippi Delta of his youth.

“Dirt contains rare tones, gradations and textures that lend themselves to an immense range of possibilities. No other medium lends itself so well toward expressing infinite space and spiritual universes beyond the visible world. Dirt is timeless and of the soul,” he explained.

He also suggested that all observation is abstract. “Life is a constant discovery. The closer you get to anything the more you learn that your previous perceptions were incomplete and the more abstract it appears. Look at a tree under a microscope. What we think we see is actually blinding us to the truth. All you really can ever do is discover yourself. That’s why I think abstraction will remain relevant throughout time, like the old cave paintings do,” Taylor predicted. His “Between Heaven and Earth” exhibition plays Moberg Gallery through March 23.

Elsewhere, Steven Vail Galleries has added an impressive lineup of cutting edge artists from all over earth, if not heaven. Theatrical Argentine Guillermo Kuitca, his playful compatriot Lilliana Porter, Pop Art star Ana Mercedes Hoyos of Columbia, surreal commentator Dario Villalba of Spain, Chinese cultural fusionist Su Xiaobai, Canadian symbolist Stephen Andrews, Spanish abstract expressionist Josep Guinovart, chromatic phenomenalist Carlos Cruz-Diez of Venezuela, expressionist Nedko Solakov of Bulgaria, Spanish Tachisme founder Antonio Saura and ironic lithograph artist Stefan Bruggemann of Mexico are now available at the gallery. New winter hours there are Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Touts: The late Iowa sculptor Mac Hornecker is part of a three-person show at Olson-Larsen, with Ken Smith and Gary Bowling, through April 6… The 10th Annual Arts and Crafts Show will be held Feb. 22-24 at the Varied Industries Building on the state fairgrounds with 300 exhibitors from eight states; $6 entry, 563-652-4529… Des Moines Art Center’s “Transparencies – Contemporary Art and the History of Glass” opens Feb. 22… Des Moines Metro Opera subscriptions are on sale ($120-$245) at considerable savings compared to individual ticket prices. The 2013 season includes Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Britten’s “Peter Grimes” and Strauss’ “Elektra.” CV

Barmuda