The Artist Sees Differently: Champneys Taylor

CHAMPNEYS TAYLOR, control room operator

Champ Taylor taking a break from the basement control room in the sculpture courtyard. Photo: Claire Norman

How did you learn about the Phillips?
I first visited the Phillips in the mid-1990’s as a tourist from Kansas City, which is where I was living at the time. However, it was after I moved to Washington and began working at the Phillips that I really started to learn about the museum. As a Museum Assistant I enjoyed the fact that being in the galleries for long periods of time encouraged me to reconsider my first impressions of the works. Often I would leave at the end of my workday with greatly revised opinions about works I had spent so much time with.
Do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips art?
Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix’s Horses Coming Out of the Sea is coloristic and luminous. It is classical and wants to be taken seriously on the basis of its poetics. Paul Cézanne’s Garden at Les Lauves features at least three distinctive horizons, giving it a temporal quality which is heightened by its ‘unfinished’ appearance. By contrast Oscar Bluemner’s Oranges is utterly groundless (and would be at home in any number of contemporary art spaces). Here I should mention that I once had the privilege (with Preparator Bill Koberg presiding) of resting this small painting on the five fingertips of my left hand.
Duncan Phillips’s collecting habits reflected a stronger interest in color than in black and white or monochromatic pictures. That said the museum’s ever-growing photography collection is a great resource. Alfred Stieglitz, with his Equivalents, was trying to push photography forward. As a painter, I can’t help but look back to the cloud studies of John Constable, which I saw at the Yale Center for British Art earlier this year. How great it is, then, for me to have had multiple encounters, some of them passive in nature, with the Equivalents over many years at the Phillips.
Do you listen to anything as you do your artwork?
Yes, sometimes I do listen to music while I am working in the studio. I also listen to movies and television programs. Other times it is relatively quiet. Maybe I’ll have the door and windows open or the AC running. Right now I am listening to If We Put Our Heads Together by Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn.
Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?
Braque is pretty reliable (and I mean that in a good way), with unexpected humors. Manet. Jacob Lawrence. Matisse of course. Oscar Bluemner is a sentimental favorite. Mondrian and Ingres. Bonnard‘s in there somewhere. There are more. Depends on the day I guess. (Curators:  how about a MehringMarin pairing?)
Do you collect other artwork – or anything?
I have been buying a lot of classical records lately. They are super cheap and usually in very good condition, and there is something satisfying about coming home with a bunch of music I have never heard before. Country records can also be gotten on the cheap but they are considerably more banged-up than classical records. I’ve got a ton of music. I’ve also got a mixer (of the culinary variety), a blender, four record players, and a box camera. These objects have figured in many still-life paintings of mine. Since I have limited space I am usually trying to cycle out unnecessary things. Anybody want a couple of Bell&Howell Super-8 projectors? They don’t currently work but they make great bookends.
And what’s your favorite Marjorie Phillips painting?
Ahh that’s an easy one. Nuns on the Roof. When are they going to bring that one out again?
-Rolf Rykken

Champneys Taylor, Untitled (ebb), 2010. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 in.

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