Looking Glass - through the Lens of Mary Lyon Taylor

Teachable Moment

Teachable Moment 

I stumbled across the photographs of Mary Lyon Taylor completely by accident.  I was searching the internet for subject matter for a body of work that had a connection to the King Park neighborhoods.  Much of my past work revolves around the use of digital photographs that I shoot specifically for a particular show.  I knew what I didn’t want to do: 1) shoot photographs of neighborhood houses, although I love victorian architecture or 2) shoot photos of residents, although I have many friends whom I love that live in the area.  I just couldn’t put my finger on what I wanted to do.  So, I did what I always do when I can’t find an answer. I Googled.

My search terms were “Herron Morton”, “artist” and “turn of the century”.  As I skimmed through the search results, I discovered the beautiful photographs created by Mary Lyon Taylor between the years of 1906 and 1910.  I was completely captivated by the soft quality of natural light used by Taylor, the serious and straightforward faces of the subjects, and the patterned interiors that contrasted the white clothing of the subjects.  Her photos reminded me of the impressionist paintings of mothers and children painted by Mary Cassatt.  I spent hours pouring over the photos and reading anything I could find about Taylor. I  had fallen in love with Taylor’s images and her story.  My challenge was  to figure out who owned the copyright for the images and how I could procure permission to use them.

I emailed Joan Hostetler of Heritage Photo & Research Services. She has studied and written extensively about Taylor.  She directed me to Susan Sutton at the Indiana Historical Society, who was instrumental in helping me obtain permission and providing me with digital copies of the images after I was finally able to decide on just 12 to use. (IHS acquired 400 original glass plate negatives after they were discovered in Taylor’s former Herron Morton home during the 1980s.)


Mother and Son

I work in encaustic collage using a centuries-old technique of applying molten beeswax and pigment to a surface and fusing successive layers together with heat and flame.  Using the wax as paint, adhesive and sealant, I compose in three dimensions, drawing with charcoal and graphite collage elements that include original photographs, found images, textiles and handmade papers.

When I began altering the images for this show, I knew I wanted to emphasize the glow that was inherent in the original photos.  I also didn’t want to go too crazy with color.  I love the quietness of the images and wanted to retain that quality.

I hope enjoy looking at them as much as I loved creating them.