• Erika Argiolas

Digital Surrealism: Maggie Taylor

In 2017, the Photo-eye Gallery decided to embrace and welcome 36 prints from the Maggie Taylor Collection into its rooms: observing the images, one is transported to a parallel world, oneiric non-existent, in which bizarre characters seem to look at us and at the same time they make question ourselves.

These works exemplify more than twenty years of work that are naturally intertwined with her childhood, perhaps the memory of some fairy tale heard time ago or a somewhat particular reading. Her works are the highest expression of her predisposition and knowledge in the field of philosophy, and her desire for expression through photography but even more through the world of the arts and their modification through digital tools. In these digital photomontages, Taylor opens countless doors to a world made of images and dreams, rich in a thousand shades and full of seduction, creating in turn microcosms with deep ties with the past.

Maggie Taylor's prints show a strong ambiguity of the images presented in multiple layers and in different shades, the acumen of which marks a strong link to Magrittian rebus, as emphasized by Cordioli in one of her essays:

"this digital extra-world that comes to create is closely linked to the strong dialectic with closed spaces and horizons that seem to become infinite or in the continuous opposition between natural and artificial that have always accompanied the typical visions of surrealism "

Perhaps in the case of Maggie Taylor we could even speak of dreamlike illusionism - as in her illustrations we are presented with objects and pieces of impossible and absurd reality, using shades of color very cold, a bit ambiguous, nebulae that bring the observer closer to the anti-sentimental principles of the dream.

The main intent is to recreate a sort of visual short circuit by generating images that play with absolutely contrasting combinations and deformations that are not at all realistic; moreover, her digital paintings does not aim to bring out the unconscious of man but - in a completely casual way - aims at enhancing objects common to our daily imagination, decontextualizing them and making them absolutely unusual and unrelated to the experience we usually have.

All these elements bring her works close to Magritte, but for other details they keep their distance from it: comparing for example Magritte's painting Shéhérazade composed in 1948 to Taylor's She Knew what was expected (2006), we will notice some differences.

Magritte paints using colors and brushes, but in reality he builds an image following the interminable flow of his thoughts. He thinks "in images" and uses shapes as if they were words suspended in an impalpable atmosphere.

Maggie Taylor, instead, makes use of her photographs, reworking and re-assembling them in virtual collages but while remaining faithful to the principles of painting, thus undermining the status of truth of the photographic data.

Taylor constantly argues that her images have no precise meanings or references and perhaps that's why the beauty of her works leave free interpretation to the viewer and grasp all the meanings and possible connections. Always referring to the two aforementioned works, it is possible to make other associations: in fact, in Taylor's scenographic setting we find a perspective plan that is well delineated, of the large red curtains that open the way to something similar to a work, theatrical and this magnificent intertwining between internal space and Nature, creates a constant oscillation and disorientation between the architectural interior - including a theatrical backdrop -, and a landscape in the distance, of which we know nothing and which we are forced to observe from far.

Magritte and Taylor in their artistic creations play with an illusion that has always existed in man's convictions, namely that of being able to measure the reality that surrounds them in some way, with these highly ambiguous, provocative and disorientating works both seem to want to shake this belief and delusion.

René Magritte, Le double secret, 1927

However, their will, does not include the desire to definitively collapse this assumption, and this element is confirmed by the presence of reality in their creations, a reality of every day life objects: even man is present perhaps not in its entirety but in this case in a gaze trapped inside a floating mask, suspended in the center of a stage or a deserted audience.

The magic and suspension that is created in observing Taylor's prints is interrupted when we realize that that mask, even floating, reflects a shadow behind it; in Magritte both the virtuosic trompe l'oeil on that banal glass and the presence of shadows, trap the observer in a full experience of nonsense. And in the end, one realizes that we are no longer inside a dream, but once again anchored in the world, in a reality that is however made mysterious: we become aware of this because Magritte works on the detail of the shapes and his painting is absolutely linked to reality, while Maggie Taylor works on the photographs, the most true that can be.

Therefore, the answer to everything is that what makes these images magnetic is not unreality, but the surreality that characterizes them.

Maggie Taylor | Life and Career

Maggie Taylor, was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1961, then moved to Florida at the age of 11; initially she obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Yale University and shortly afterwards a master's in photography from the University of Florida. She herself says that she spent her entire childhood watching for hours countless comedies and science fiction series that would somehow shape and characterize her as an artist. In 1996 she got closer and closer to the world of photography and having set up her work as a photographer as a "still-life" procurer, she began to approach the world of computers for the creation of her images. Her series have been very successful and are featured in private and public collections including The Art Museum of Princeton University, The Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University in Cambridge, Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida and The Seoul Museum of Photography in Korea.

For the first ten years of her work, Taylor made only use of an old camera, not only to immortalize people or moments of everyday life, but to create still lifes or landscape glimpses through the collection of random photographic "fragments". Her research method in creating images, is defined as a scarvenge hunter, in fact the artist carries out a real treasure hunt, starting from the search for the perfect vintage photography to be used as the basis of her work: her research includes even small dead animals such as butterflies, birds or mice. She is a collector of daguerreotypes and other types of photographs: in her studio there is a large amount of drawers, shelves and multi-compartment furniture in which she even keeps other types of objects that she buys in online auctions or that she buys at the flea market or simply finds in her courtyard - such as porcelain dolls, small collectibles, faded postcards, anonymous Victorian portraits, and long-standing photo albums.

Although her work and collections are reminiscent of ancient times, Taylor simply considers herself an image maker and does not feel the need to categorize her work, trying to figure out whether it is photography or not, surrealism or realism and so on. ; in fact, she claims that the fundamental thing in her work is to channel all her energies into the construction and translation of her ideas into images.



Trompe-l'œil (French for '"deceive the eye"') is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture.

Milena Cordioli, Renè Magritte e Maggie Taylor: dentro o fuori?, «Artkernel», 2010.

You can freely access to the exhibition through this link: https://www.photoeye.com/gallery/forms2/index.cfm?image=1&id=69927&Portfolio=Portfolio6&Page=

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