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Self-taught artist George Taylor with his 'Voodoo Prayer for New Orleans' painting, one of 38 on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center through April 5.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Self-taught artist George Taylor with his "Voodoo Prayer for New Orleans" painting, one of 38 on display at Carnegie Visual Arts Center through April 5.

Accountant chooses
Arts over audits

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

George Taylor was only 23 when he tallied up the balance sheets of life and chose art over audits.

Then the self-taught artist with a bachelor's degree in accountancy began pursuing his first love as a career.

"Roadside Vistas," an exhibit featuring 38 of the Montgomery man's landscape and still life paintings, opens at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center on Thursday and will be on display through April 5.

When he headed to college, he was told not to major in something "frivolous" like art but to pursue it on the side. He tried, but the long hours at an Atlanta certified public accounting firm interfered.

"The part of me that wanted to paint was getting killed by the drudgery of auditing," Taylor said.

So he quit to allow time to smell the roses ... and the Japanese magnolias and the plantains and perhaps even the bongo berries.

Sometimes he paints what he sees, and occasionally he invents an object to spice up his work. That's the case with his 2006 painting "Voodoo Prayer for New Orleans." He chose the plantains in the foreground, a banana-looking fruit, for the tropical feel and added voodoo touches. Then he painted in a new fruit created in his imagination and christened the "bongo berry."

Taylor even tried writing a first novel but found he didn't have much to say.

"Painting is a much better way to express yourself," he said. So he pulls out his oil paints and gets to work, often painting outdoors, as pleinair artists like to do.

Occasionally he works from memory, "but I prefer to be there, in the scene, to select the exact relationships and essences I'm after," he said.

A large painting like the magnolias takes him four to eight painting sessions of two to three hours each.

"He captures a scene or object on canvas the way he sees it in his mind. It's a combination of what is there and how he perceives it," Carnegie staff member Kathy Silvestri said. "His work is varied, with magnolias and tulip trees, Coosa River views and quintessential Southern Alabama scenes with Spanish moss hanging off the trees."

When you view his paintings, she said, "You can see the evolution of his work and even tell what mood he was in when he was painting."

Taylor, 41, said economics control your painting when you do it full time.

"I'm a color guy, but in the winter, everything is gray and brown, so that's when I try to do some experimental things," he said.

He paints almost exclusively in oils because of their "unequaled feeling of solidity, depth and chromatic intensity."

Because he is self-taught and has taken nothing more than a class on how to use oil paints, Taylor knows he skipped a lot.

"There's a whole culture of studio teaching that I missed," he said. "But I'm an art history nut, and I study everybody and everything."

He dropped out of The University of Alabama after 31/2 years, played in bands for a while, and then completed his degree at The University of Alabama in Birmingham in 1989. The Montgomery native worked in Boulder, Colo., and Atlanta before returning in 1995 to Montgomery. You can spot that city's water towers, houses and other objects in some of his landscapes.

Taylor chooses subjects that hold meanings and associations for him.

"I appropriate techniques from many artists, styles and periods, which technically makes me a post-historical subjective realist," he said.

He has won awards at a variety of shows and had solo exhibits at the Albany Museum of Art in Albany, Ga., the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Wiregrass Museum of Art in Dothan, on several college campuses and at libraries in Montgomery and Homewood.

Carnegie Executive Director Laura Phillips first saw his work at the Kentuck Festival in Northport and decided his art would be a good fit for Decatur's Visual Arts Center. Taylor will be honored at a reception March 16 as part of the center's Third Friday at Five event for members and guests. He also will be making presentations at several area schools that week.

If you go

What: “Roadside Vistas,” an exhibit of art by George Taylor of Montgomery

Where: Carnegie Visual Arts Center, 207 Church St. N.E.

When: March 8-April 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays

Admission: Free, with donations and memberships encouraged; call 341-0562

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