This weekend at the café La Chope du Chateau Rouge, I had the chance to sit down with Taylor Holland and ask him some questions about life as an artist in Paris, and more importantly, his new Frames Project. Taylor is originally from Austin, Texas, and left for Paris pursuing his career in art about 5 years ago. He is an emerging media artist in the Parisian art scene; check out his work at www.taylorho.com
Works from this project are available by commission or private sale. For catalog and price list, please contact the artist.
How did you think of the idea for the Frames project?
I was at the Louvre on many occasions showing friends around, and I started looking at the frames and thinking that they were amazing. And honestly I know very little about art history and I don’t really care. I am really bored by old paintings, so I just started noticing the frames and thinking they are incredible… One day I was checking out the new features in Photoshop, which I have to do for my teaching gig, and there was this new feature called ‘content aware tool’. So I started thinking what else could I do with this? In early November of last year I was fooling around with it at my desk, and I tested out a bunch of different images. Then my brain went back to the frames from the Louvre, so I thought I’d try that. And it was the most beautiful thing… So then I needed to get more high quality photos of frames, so duh, I’ll go back to the Louvre.
I went on a Monday morning and shot frames for a couple hours, and shot maybe 100 frames that day. After I went home I started fooling around with the frames in Photoshop. This was the time when the Eurobus book was coming out and I was so busy with everything that I needed to sit on this Frames project for a while, so I put it on the back burner.
The moral of the story is, I discovered the frames project by digging through these menus in applications and thinking, what can I do with this?
Wow, so how did you find someone to make a 3D model of your ‘Frames’ project?
I showed a colleague the frames on my phone, and he said I should meet his cousin, he is a frame maker, a master frame maker. So he hooked me up on Facebook with his cousin, who lives in the Netherlands. He does the frame repairs for the rijks museum, and the national museum in Istanbul. Up until then it had never occurred to me that I would be able to make a 3D model from an actual old frame. The only possibility I thought was maybe printing one. So I called the guy after I sent him images and he said he was in love with the idea, and he couldn’t believe he had never thought of it. So how I met this guy was total luck, I mean talk about lucky. After meeting him, I asked how much is it going to cost to make one of my frames. He said anywhere from 5-6,ooo euros to fabricate and guild it, etc. So I thought that sounds great, but I do not really have a pile of cash lying around from my teaching job, so… unfortunately not going to happen right now.
So I’m back at school a couple weeks later and my colleague tells me that he thinks he found an investor for the project. I emailed the guy in Holland, the master frame maker, and told him that we have an investor. So we decided to build a prototype and he started making it, he finished it, and it’s now sitting in my dining room. That’s pretty much the whole story.
What was the process like in making one of these frames with the master frame-maker from Holland?
It’s an 1840’s Rococo frame from Germany. He built this mold, like that’s what he does, he takes an old frame that has a chip or dent in it and then takes a mold of another corner and makes a mold and then replaces the area where the dent is. So he was able to take the details from the frame and map them out and fuse them into this mold as the ‘filler’ for the frame. So basically he does exactly what I do in Photoshop by taking the information from the frames and filling it with the same content, but he does it in reality for his job with real frames. It was really cool that he basically does exactly the same thing I did, and that he is willing to do this with me.
When I went to his workshop in Holland for the first time to meet him and start making a replica, It was a truly an amazing experience for me. Before that I had never tried to work in a 3D medium, and being part of the production of one of my frames was kind of like having a baby. It was amazing to see the process and have my hand in it, especially the gold leaf that they put on for the gilding. It was like it had a life of its own from its organic qualities.
When did you decide to pursue a career in the art world? Have you always had your hand in this industry?
I started with photography. I worked as a creative director for 13 years in the states at the Austin Chronicle Newspaper. And then I worked with all these talented photographers, so that’s how I learned photography – was by going on shoots with them, and basically I learned how to be a photographer without ever touching a camera. So after my ten-year, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in photography. I had bought a Digital SLR camera and as soon as I arrived in France at Charles de Gaulle, I started shooting, and that was 5 years ago now. I started with a blog and I have put a photo a day on it for the past 5 years, its up to ‘la photo du jour’ 1,850. The practice of constantly shooting photos was what got me into everything I am doing now. I still shoot a lot of photos, and because of that I have a lot of themes that come out of my photography. My teaching as well inspires me and makes me think if new ideas I probably never would have thought of.
So now that you are a Parisian artist, does living in Paris have any influences on your work?
I would say that primarily it’s a blessing and a curse. The fact that I can go to the Centre Pompidou, or all the Marais galleries and see god knows what is pretty amazing. I mean incredible stuff. I could walk ten minutes and see Duchamp’s ‘La Fontaine’, its mind-boggling. Its amazingly inspirational and a lot of stimulation in terms of staying engaged and inspired to produce artwork. The other thing though is that Paris is the most over photographed city in the world, so it forced me down a rabbit hole of ideas I never would have thought of. I mean you can’t go around taking photos of the Eiffel Tower, Haussmannian buildings, and old ladies with too much lipstick on all day. So I started noticing people sleeping in public, which is hilarious to me. I’m not talking about homeless people, just regular everyday people. I do not think people come to Paris thinking that is what they are going to notice, which is to me a great idea. That’s an example of where Eurobus came from. I mean there are these incredible buses with amazing graphic design on them.
Paris is also, I think, very exclusionary, it’s all about who you know, and in terms about breaking into the art world here is very hard. I used to live in Austin, Texas which is the total opposite, it is very inclusionary.
In your words, what defines you as an artist? What do you try to communicate with your practice?
Half of my art practice is about noticing things other people don’t notice, and the other half is hacking technology and making something different. It’s about using something that’s already there. Several people have said to me that after looking at the Eurobus book they never look at buses the same way again. And they notice buses all over the place. And the same thing for me – I mean I will now run after a bus if I think it is awesome. That’s the thing about Paris too, there are so many buses in Paris, and it is like shooting a gun in a barrel of fish. On my way to work every day I would just shoot all of these buses, it only cost me a few minutes a day for a year. I mean that’s cool, right? That wouldn’t happen anywhere else besides Paris.
What do you do in your free time when you art not working on your art projects?
I do graphic design work, I design a lot of stuff, like print publications, I play music, I have a band with the Jag Jaguar record label, I haven’t put out a record in a few years but, we keep going. I do sound design, I’ve done sound design for a couple documentary films in the states, and I’m very interested in that. I spent most of my 20’s involved in music actually. Hmmm, what else do I do, that’s a good question. I look at the Internet a lot. I like to cook, and play tennis.
Ok, pretty standard question, who are your favorite artists, or artists that inspire you?
Andreas Gursky, I love him, such a great photographer. He does the thing that I want to do with repetition and minimalism. I really like the simplicity of his work. I like on the same vain this guy Michael Wolf, he did a series of buildings in Hong Kong that is just amazing. Um, I like Edward Shay a lot; I like Donald Judd, Kandinsky, Gerhard Richter, Blinky Palermo, Joseph Albers, and Alexander Rodchenko … All of the old minimalists basically, anything simple and geometric; I’m all over it.
Rafaël Rozendaal is a new media artist who is creating new websites that are art, he’s doing some amazing stuff, and you should check him out.
Now that the Eurobus book is out, and your Frames project is underway, do you have any ideas for future projects?
At this point, I really want to make random projects. For example I have this idea for this didgeridoo filled with cement. The project is called the “Diggeri-don’t” and that’s it. It has nothing to do with anything; it is just what I want to do. I have a whole list of things that have no label to them; they are just going to be what they are.
I’m also working on a project with screen-capturing. Like for example if I’m working on my computer and something amazing happens on my screen I want to capture it, and catalog it, so that I can use it. I was in illustrator the other day and it started making all these gray boxes everywhere for no reason, and it looked amazing! Like there is this tool in Photoshop called ‘lens correction’, where it corrects distortion from a lens, and like, there is something there. So I think my next project will have to do with lens correction. I have no clue what, but it is going to be cool.
So that’s the direction I want to go in, I think that is a lot more interesting than saying I’m a photographer, or I’m a painter, or whatever. I get a lot of inspiration from these media artists who are doing whatever they want. I think this is an exciting time. It is kind of like a corollary to Duchamp, commenting on what art is, and what it can be. To be able to live in a time when you can experiment with what art is and what it can be is really exciting.
Interview by Renée Caouette