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Maggie Taylor's Strange Parallel Universe

The Big Picture magazine cover (March 2006)

Swimming with a Surrealist: Artist Maggie Taylor

Surprising Beauty and Emotional Impact

I just read an engaging article by Amy Standen in The Big Picture print magazine titled "Going for a Twilight Swim: A step-by-step peek into artist Maggie Taylor's strange universe" (March 2006). The article focused on the 'capture and output' of Maggie Taylor's art, and did much to make me ponder over the age-old debate: "What is art?"

Maggie Taylor is a digital artist (surrealist) from Gainsville, Florida, who combines photography, illustration, and scans of real items into digital compositions and, ultimately, into works of art she prints into limited editions and sells to the public. The article's introduction mentions that "In artist Maggie Taylor's strange, parallel universe, birds ride bicycles, ideas materialize in the shape of clouds, and wings sprout from the backs of prim Victorian women."

If like me, you're familiar with surrealistic art, the strangeness of birds riding bicycles isn't too big a surprise. What intrigued me more was learning about Maggie's creative process while watching the surreal piece "Twilight Swim" being constructed piece-by-piece as I turned the pages in the magazine article. Seeing source material (photographs, postcards, and scans of real seaweed) being manipulated before my very eyes into something that didn't exist before, renewed my respect for every artist who creates in harmony with their inner intuition and instinct.

"Starting with objects that she finds on eBay, in flea markets, and in her own surroundings, Taylor then uses her flatbed scanner, Adobe Photoshop, and other technologies to produce images of surprising beauty and emotional impact."

"Surprising beauty and emotional impact." I wonder if the answer to "what is art?" is found simply in answers such as this one — instead of in debates over how a piece was created or what kind of training an artist has. Don't we ultimately have control over what beauty we personally see (or not) in a work of art? Isn't it all subjective?

If so, how important is it that the artist thoroughly understand and feel the beauty and emotional impact — the meaning — their own work holds for them before all others? Can an artist truly find value in their own work before someone else comes along and says "Good job!" Furthermore, what value does a piece of art symbolize to its creator, even if it's never released into the world?

Interesting questions indeed. •

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