Mystery and Mayhem at Addison-Woolley

I honked it up the hill yesterday to Addison-Woolley Gallery on Washington St. in Portland to see the show of Fran Vita-Taylor and Darrell Taylor’s works – on exhibit through May 28. A -W is always full of surprises and this show is no exception.

Because… there really are three Taylors to discover in the exhibit, not two.


Darrell Taylor’s “Surreallegories” take us back almost 100 years to the birth of the surrealist movement where art was inspired by dreams and the subconscious, resulting in sometimes seemingly unrelated imagery and juxtapositions. Written explanations certainly help clue the viewer in, and in this instance I’m glad Darrell’s artist statement is front and center. Each of the three works in this exhibit are clearly following one concept in the artist’s mind and are very accessible as a result.

The Transfiguration, Assumption, and Apotheosis of High-End Luxury Consumables©Darrell Taylor. All Rights Reserved

The tiny reproduction above is actually 2 feet high and 9 feet wide, so…let’s look at a detail to appreciate the frenzy and humor in these pieces:

The Transfiguration, Assumption, and Apotheosis of High-End Luxury Consumables (detail)©Darrell Taylor. All Rights Reserved

Study these once and then come back to them a second time to go to the next level of observation – there’s no mistaking this artist is having a ball making these “paintings with photographs.”

By far my favorite was Darrell’s “Big Gallery Séance…” – it’s easiest to relate to and being in the art world and a student of photo history, I got a big kick out of it. Plus, I discovered something amazing in it. And we’ll get to that in a moment. Here’s a small detail from “Big Gallery Séance” – it’s full of art world satire and kind of a blast to look at.

Big Gallery Séance: chacun a son gout (detail)©Darrell Taylor. All Rights Reserved


Fran Vita-Taylor’s work is instantly recognizable and distinctive. They are painstakingly created, no doubt about it – the thought and care behind each image is palpable.

Persona©Fran Vita-Taylor. All Rights Reserved

The  mask is a welcome addition to the flora and natural objects in the gorgeous “Persona”, and this is a picture I could live with for a long time.  I’m not enamored of the photographs in this exhibit with areas that are out of focus  – they distract me from the purpose of the image. Regardless, the exhibited works are more often than not haunting and lovely. I like the artist’s push into using a non-flora object as the picture’s focus – as with “Persona” and the captivating “Split Personality” below.

Spit Perspective©Fran Vita-Taylor. All Rights Reserved


SURPRISE! Darrell Taylor’s mother, Denzel Taylor, took extraordinary photographs of the men who delivered product to the grocery store where she worked as a grocery clerk! I kid you not. Darrell includes a large number of them in the “Big Gallery Séance” piece:

Big Gallery Séance (detail)©Darrell Taylor. All Rights Reserved

Darrell tells me his mother did not consider herself a photographer at all, but these images remind me very much of the projects of Sander and Disfarmer. She was 38, the year was 1952, and he found all the images stored away in a carefully labelled photo album after her death. Darrell also tells me he has scanned them in at a very hi res and can print them beautifully up to 30″x20″. He thinks his mother took the pictures as a kind of “database” to remember the men’s names, but these terrific portraits go so much farther than that – did she not see how affectionately and beautifully she immortalized these friendly delivery men?

Mr. Stratton – Sunshine Biscuits©Estate of Denzel Taylor. All Rights Reserved

So life is full of surprises – and so is art, thank goodness and here’s a good one.

There’s only a week left to see this exhibit, so stop by and indulge.

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