Hansen: Dreams made real in art

Every so often, you have a luminous, fantastical dream that rekindles your faith in adventure.

It's a dream that shows a better version of yourself, doing some simple, inexplicable thing. With a daring story and mind-boggling visuals, you feel vulnerable because when you wake up you wish it were real.

Artist Maggie Taylor creates such dreams.

She is a dream whisperer, combining digital art with stunning imagination. Her work is showing in the JoAnne Artman gallery in Laguna Beach until the end of the year. She will also be in attendance at a reception Nov. 7 during Art Walk.

"I've been following her work forever and always wanted to work with her," Artman said. "It's a big deal for her to come here. I don't know if people realize it. She's in museums; she's coming out from Florida, and she has a new book so she'll be doing a book signing. We're really excited to have her here."

It's hard to fully describe the work of Taylor, a digital artist with a penchant for surrealism. She admits to toying with ideas for months until they start to come to life.

"I generally do not begin working on an image with an idea of what the final piece is going to look like," Taylor said. "I start by scanning one or two objects and/or an old photograph. Through the process of retouching and separating things from their backgrounds, I come up with some ideas or possibilities for the image.

"It can take several weeks before I even have a version of the image that I want to make a test print of. At that point, I am still totally open to changing it, once I see how it looks on paper."

While digital software is vital to her work, the outcome does not have that manufactured, pixilated look. If you did not know any better, you'd think you were looking at a painting — a rich, elaborate, truly original painting.

"When I look at her work, it's just a marvel," Artman said. "You always see new things. To see a Maggie Taylor here, that's amazing."

Taylor represents a new genre of fine art that is gaining broader acceptance: digital art. Last year the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles held "Digital Darkroom," a digital art exhibit that was wildly successful. Only 17 artists were selected for inclusion from around the world, including Taylor and Brooke Shaden, another of Artman's artists.

Whether in art or music, the past 10 years have seen a resurgence in eclecticism. Gone are the days when artists needed to adhere to the dominant, ruling style.

For Taylor, it's surrealism but not in the Dali way. Where Dali was sometimes dark and distant, Taylor is vibrant and whimsical, like in her "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" series.

"I am influenced by everyday occurrences, as well as whatever I read, watch or hear," Taylor said. "Spending time outside working in the garden, browsing a flea market or watching something on TV, I never know how all these things filter into the work, but they do."

Perhaps the reason her work shows so much depth is that she first collects real things, those found objects, holding them in her hand as if weighing their merit.

She scans them and turns them over, adding textures and layers of her own life.

It's not unlike admiring something we can't let go. We are drawn to its substance. Whether by design or blemish, there is a spark that connects us.

In this moment, we allow ourselves the time to feel, unhurried and without expectation. The joy is both palpable and ethereal.

We are in some sense transported to a parallel place, tethered by that one thing in our hand.

It is the rope that holds the cloud in one of Taylor's pieces called "Moving On." It is the dragonfly that lures us past a boundary.

It is the sparkling, vivid visions that we should remember and embrace, not just in our dreams.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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