Review Me: Taylor Slingerland: Instinctive
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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Taylor Slingerland: Instinctive

Hi Taylor, nice of you to join us in this cordial talk. Would you please be so kind to tell us about your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?
I was born and raised in South Florida by very creative parents. My mother had a career as a photo stylist before eventually moving into work with special needs children, and my late father did a little bit of everything - drawing, photography, construction, corporate trade show exhibit sales. They fostered creativity and inspired me to pursue art myself. As far as a pivotal moment is concerned, there was a day my dad was cleaning out the garage and discovered his old cameras he hadn’t touched in years. I remember him teaching me how to look through the viewfinder, change lenses, meter the light. It was a whole new way of seeing, and I felt the need to explore my surroundings with the camera. I still use his camera today.

Was there ever a moment of doubt to question your art career entirely?
I doubt my art career often, but I know that I need to make art, even if I don’t have the time or inspiration to create art every day. When the inspiration isn’t there, it is easy to doubt myself and feel like a fraud. But I think maybe that this is a part of being an artist people don’t always discuss. I’m young and am still discovering my voice and what it is I have to say about the world that hasn’t been said before, or trying to express it in a new way.

What is your daily routine when working in your studio?
I enjoy being awake early. I make my coffee, imagine the kinds of photos I’m interested in taking that day, and then I load my camera and shoot in the morning light before the spark of inspiration is gone. It feels both very thought out and very spontaneous in ways.

Take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork begin for you?
I try to think of my art in terms of series. In the past, I’ve taken photos and then looked back on them to try to extrapolate the meaning, but more recently I have been thinking about the theme first. I even write a bit down about my intentions for the series and then will use that to guide me along. I’m not referencing it constantly, but I will go back and forth between the words and the photos and see how they inspire each other, how it evolves.

Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience?
I prefer for the viewer to interpret the work. While I’d certainly engage in a discussion on interpretation, it almost feels like it would be unfair for me to tell someone how they ought to see it. I like the viewer to have a clean slate. Sometimes it allows them to discover elements of the work that you didn’t see yourself.

How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?
My subjects come from my life. Whether they be people, places, or things, it’s all stuff I relate to. The inspiration has to be organic. I never know when or where I’ll find it, and if I specifically try to look for an inspiration, it usually feels hollow. So I suppose I just live life and make note when I notice something interesting I’d like to further explore. I have a running list in my phone where I keep all of my ideas. I do hope I am remembered for having a voice.

What are your art influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?
I feel very influenced by abstract art as well as works that explore the human figure. Edward Weston and Ruth Bernhard were early favorites. I also constantly look to Man Ray, Diane Arbus, and Robert Mapplethorpe. I appreciate artists that evoke an emotion or a mood quickly and clearly, whether it be something very formal like Ruth Bernhard, or something more off-kilter like Diane Arbus. Susan Burnstine is another great example - I love how she explores places I’m so familiar with in such a surreal way.

If you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?
I’d love to meet Vivian Maier and discuss her influences. She was so prolific yet so unknown until after death, so I guess as sometime who feels very driven to be remembered myself, I’d like to know how she thought of her own work and how she’d feel about all the posthumous attention.

How have you been affected by the current lockdown, social distancing and all limitations and cancellations in artistic world?
The lockdown has obviously created new limitations for us all, but it also opened a door for me in giving me the luxury of time to create. I was laid off from my day job for several months, so it gave me the space to get back into photography after some busy years in which life seemed to interfere. Sure, I’d love to be interfacing with the art world in person, but in a way this has created a new means of interaction out of necessity.

You have presented a set of photo collection named "Safer at Home". Some of our readers were excited about this macro models of ordinary objects in our daily life. How did you choose those objects? why this set?
The subject selection was an organic process for me. Items that I used either daily or infrequently were all there for the taking, and I realized early on that if I were to examine these objects with a macro lens, interesting landscapes I hadn’t noticed in the day to day could be explored. I’m very type A personality, so I’m constantly making lists. I created a very lengthy list of possible items, and then would reference the list when I felt inspired to shoot. I ultimately chose this set of images because I felt there was a sort of poetic balance in the progression of lines, shapes, shadows and textures.

Emphasizing on something that we see everyday can upgrade our vision about details, specially in simple objects. What was your intention to choose simple objects?
My intention in choosing simple objects was to underscore the concept that there is so much that we as humans are immersed in, yet we are usually only able to skim the surface and not stop to smell the roses. I’m a very anxious person, but I was able to find some sort of comfort in looking for the art behind the garlic press, the fly swatter, the hair in the shower drain. A compelling image can be made out of the most mundane things, and I wanted to challenge myself to be simple but not simplistic.

All photos are sepia or black and white. How have you chosen to release the photos in such coloring?
I have always been a fan of monochrome images. I think it is really interesting to view something without the full color spectrum, manipulated in a way my eyes can’t readily see. It puts more emphasis on composition in a way. That being said, there were also logistical reasons. I wanted this project to be fully self-contained in my apartment, and black and white processing is something I learned in my high school photography class. I know it’s a scientific process, but it feels like more than that to me. It makes me think about having faith in things, that the film was exposed correctly, that I mixed the chemicals properly, that the images will magically appear if I follow the recipe. Also, it was an interesting way for me to experiment with techniques like stand development which I hadn’t tried before.

Some of our readers were wondering about the photography timing for such a collection. How long does it take to prepare your scene and how many photos you take to get satisfied about what you look for?
I shot about 6 rolls of film for this series over about a month. It was something I didn’t work on every day, but rather in binges. Sometimes it would take me a week to shoot a roll, and sometimes I’d shoot multiple rolls in an hour. I like to work quickly when I feel inspired or when the light feels right, so I generally wouldn’t spend more than 10 minus per photo. Sometimes I’d spend a lot of time fine tuning the composition, making sure the lines and shadows intersected the edges of the frame very specifically, but I also would sometimes shoot more hastily and then would do reshoots if I liked the first draft but thought of a way I could push the visual impact further. There’s no set number, but I like to revisit a scene if I feel like I missed an opportunity.

Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?
I am planning to do a series of self-portraits. I have seen how pointing a camera at someone can make them feel uncomfortable, and I think it is only fair that I learn from that discomfort myself.

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