THE HUMAN FORM AS MACHINE SERIES
“I was immediately drawn to Smith’s ability to effortlessly evoke complex feelings about the human body. By beautifully blending figure painting, abstraction, design, and mechanical illustration, her artworks remind the viewer of their relationship, both physically and psychologically, to their own bodies and the human form. The body seems intimate yet foreign, organic yet mechanical, and simple yet beyond understanding. The artworks feel both deeply personal and cold at the same time. This dichotomy can be found throughout all of Smith’s as she merges two ways of observing the world: the aesthetic of art with the factual understanding of science.“ - Garry Milius, Associate Curator of Art, Photography & Artifacts, The Kinsey Institute of Research in Sex, Gender & Reproduction, Indiana University
In many of her abstract figurative works, Taylor Smith will obscure the face or leave it just beyond reach to draw the viewer in closer as they attempt to understand what is missing and fill in the empty spaces on their own. “I often alternate between painting imagined self-portraits and portraits of people I have known,” said Smith. She also feels that painting the figure more loosely allows for greater exploration, not only by herself, but also on the part of the viewer. There are questions to be answered and the uncomfortable space creates an underlying tension, sometimes emotional and human, and that overall tension is really what she seeks to achieve. Most of us experience that tension when we are with someone who fascinates us. Smith wants her paintings to fascinate and create emotion.
Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s also something we learn. People had to learn how to find Van Gogh’s paintings beautiful at one time because they were so vastly different from the established perspective. But we do not question it now. “I think that by depicting my own version of the human form, as I see it … and that’s important … as I see it, I can somewhat lend my own voice, from right here in the early 21st century,” says Smith. “I suppose that by creating a work which is informed by my own personal narrative and which is also intended to be viewed and appreciated, I am in some way creating work that has my own story and a real life behind it.”
The term “Human Machine” for this series was actually inspired by yellowing and stained machine part diagrams that Smith found in an empty factory in Berlin Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 while she was living in and studying in Berlin. In this series, she attempts to create a dialogue between the human form and the machine. Often mundane and overlooked, these detailed mechanical diagrams of civilization’s most useful everyday machines serve to remind us that we are all a complicated system of assembled parts and components. Beginning with multiple layers of paint on the canvas to evoke the texture of an old factory, decaying and rusting in obsolescence, Smith lays the human figure on the canvas by hand with charcoal. Leaving the final stages of applying color to everything but the intended subjects, she draws attention to the periodic isolation and monotony of daily existence. Are humans simply machines of one type or another? Or can there be a liberating joy in realizing that we are more than a numbered list of ever-more replaceable parts?
Smith’s paintings are marked by planes of color and texture, from shiny geometric shapes to soft skin to the imagined chemical make-up of the the subject matter . “Themes I return to again and again in my figure painting are the idea of the body, but within an imagined space that invites abstract planes of texture and color as well as the idea of the things surrounding us. Emotions. Thoughts. Experiences.”