One of the best ways I’ve found to focus my scattered mind is to allow myself to be completely captivated by the elements of the earth. I grew up in a house overlooking a large body of water and my fascination with water and the power that it can contain will never cease.
I observe and investigate these natural forces as a way to process my own bodily experience in this very tangible world and think about ways to perhaps reach for those parts of it that are intangible.
My studio practice feels most like an evolving cartography and an attempt find pattern in the mapping of my mind and it’s movement through the ideas that hold my attention. The first book I ever made was in 3rd grade, titled “Why Pine Trees Don’t Lose Their Leaves” (below) in which I wrote an imagined story about the Pine Tree being bravest and most determined of all the trees to grow tall enough to reach the great tree spirit in the sky. When he did, he was rewarded by getting to keep his needles all year long.
I included this here because there’s a distinct connection between my childhood instincts and curiosities that my current work is diving deeper into, dealing with the desire to understand why things happen the way they do.
My ongoing book project began a couple years ago, while I was living with and caring for my grandfather who was progressing quickly through the stages of dementia. During this time, I found a handwritten poem titled “The Search” in a plastic bag at a thrift store. I understood the poem to be a placeholder for what my grandfather would never again be able to articulate. I began writing in his voice, and collecting and scanning the thousands of images he’d taken during his lifetime as a way to understand him and the loss he was encountering daily.
I became increasingly interested in the way our minds work and spent a lot of time researching the physical/medical aspects of memory and memory loss. I found peace in the way everything in our bodies, down to the forms and lines of cells and nerves could be mapped out, labeled, and understood in a scientific sense, like the image above. I made lots of drawings and paintings in reaction to this.
I also took pictures everyday, following my interest in conveying time and change through the evidence of it in my environment.
The manipulation of material, in the form of recycling paper and re-casting it as a new form brought a level of hope to the process for me. The above sculpture was made after turning my childhood sandbox into a big vat for pulling large handmade sheets of paper, only possible with the collaboration of my family members. These collaborative actions are what I understand now to be the thread that can link this project together.
This book will likely be in the works for a couple more years, as it’s something I need time and space away from to be able to navigate effectively. So there are a lot of other projects that dominate my time in the studio.
Right now, it’s textile projects, collaborative paintings and returning to the study of water as it undulates between freezing and thawing in the many tributaries in the forest behind my house.
View Alicia’s artwork online at www.aliciahopetaylor.com. Stop by Main Street Arts to see Alicia’s artwork in our current exhibition, Ink and Paper. The exhibition is up through Friday, March 25. Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Rochester printmaker and photographer Rebecca Lomuto.