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Art as a refuge

by Keith Barber

Artist, metalsmith and jewelry maker Jeff Taylor works six days a week at his Lyndon Street Artworks studio in downtown Greensboro repurposing found objects into works of art. (courtesy photos)

Jeff Taylor describes his artistic style as that of a kid with attention deficit disorder. In college, Taylor’s art professors would implore him to focus on a single theme and develop a series of sculptures based on a common thread. But Taylor was too busy “listening” to the materials of his medium and tuned out the professor’s instructions, and his “series” came in packages of three.

“The materials sometimes dictate what I do,” Taylor said. “They come together in unexpected ways sometimes. If I work too hard at it, if I try to push too hard on an idea, I can over work it very easily.”

“Then, the material starts to resist me,” he continued. “I’m trying to force it into something it doesn’t want to be, so I back off of it, go on to something else and come back to it.”

After gaining some spiritual distance, Taylor will come back to a piece of metal or an object and suddenly, it transforms into something magical.

Taylor’s road to studying crafts in college was serendipitous to say the least.

Taylor graduated high school in Newport News, Va., before moving to New Orleans. Three years later, he returned to his home state and found work in an auto repair shop in Richmond. One day, a friend asked Taylor for help with a college crafts project and his life took a dramatic turn.

“A friend of mine came to me asking for help with a crafts project and I kind of blew him away with what I created,” Taylor recalled.

Taylor majored in crafts at Virginia Commonwealth University because he was certain he wanted to work with materials but wasn’t the least bit interested in the theory of traditional sculpture.

“All that theory was just too much talk,” Taylor said. “I went into crafts department knowing I wanted to make functional sculpture there.”

And that’s exactly what Taylor does six days a week at his studio at Lyndon Street Artworks in downtown Greensboro. On any given day, visitors to Taylor’s studio will find the artist doing metalsmith work or creating jewelry with his favorite medium: pewter.

“I collect pewter from thrift stores, whatever I can find that is pewter,” Taylor said. “Some time ago, I started using these cups and started making objects from toy soldier molds.”

In addition to his ornate goblets, Taylor has fashioned a number of dollhouses from found objects. Taylor has created “a smattering of other things” he’s repurposed in his studio like hand tools.

“In my studio, at any given moment, anything is bound to become a work of art,” he said.

Taylor doesn’t choose the object of his art. He says the object chooses him.

“In the studio, the materials, I just go with it. I pick them up and say, ‘What are we going to do with this? How is this going to work?’” Taylor explained.

A critical thinker, Taylor’s studio is a place for creativity but also deep thought.

“I’m thinking all the time all that is happening in the world — there’s some pretty dark stuff going on and I don’t do well with darkness,” he said.

Art provides a sanctuary for Taylor, and peace comes in the manipulation of materials into something beautiful.

“That’s why artists make art, because we have to,” Taylor said.

“Some artists choose it but mostly art chooses us. It’s a passion not a choice and no matter how rough it gets we stick with it because that’s who we are.”

wanna go?

Jeff Taylor’s functional sculpture is on display at Lyndon Street Artworks,

205 Lyndon St., Greensboro. For further info, visit: www.lyndonstreetartworks.com

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