Lydia Taylor’s Before and After opens Friday, Feb. 3, 6-9pm at The Diamond Shops Gallery, surrounding viewers with “mirrors and LGBTQ+ slang for an experiment in self-reflection and the creation of identity.” She shares with Zackquill about how she came to art and then to merge her art and feminism, her favorite thing about being an artist in Morgantown, her forthright advice for aspiring artists and more…

Z: How did you end up in Morgantown, West Virginia?

LT: I was raised in Weirton, part of the northern panhandle. I came to WVU for the music and stayed for the art.

Z: How did you come to be an artist?



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LT: I remember drawing my favorite cartoon character on lined notebook paper with a cheap color pencil when I was 12. From then on art was something that I was always practicing but never considered what it really meant to me until college. For a long time I had overlooked art as an option. When I realized what I could do with it I joined the program at WVU as a full major, rather than a minor. Originally, my focus was in painting. I’ve been serious about feminism for several years and during my 2nd course in painting I was also undertaking Lithography. I did more harm than good to my portfolio in Litho but during that semester I finally began to get the hang of merging feminism and art. I started to feel that printmaking was a much better fit for me given its nature regarding social outreach and organization, propaganda art, and wide variety of multidisciplinary mediums. I switched my focus in my sophomore year and never looked back.

Artist Lydia Taylor

Z: How did this exhibition come about? Why is this important for the Morgantown community? How do you think the environment is for the arts in Morgantown? How do you think it could improve?

LT: This exhibition is a larger version of my final project in my Advanced Printmaking class last semester. I spent the fall in a weekly internship where I was able to experiment with letterpress printmaking. It also just so happened to be the time which I realized my interest in using the written word in fine art. I am a queer and non-binary artist and recently my work has shifted from political to more personal, but always socially engaged. I wanted to use letterpress to talk about queer identity and experience. I was inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored installations and desired to make a visually large piece. Most of my work regarding identity demands inward reflection but also creates a platform for empathy and learning. Living in a Red state comes with many obstacles. When I make unapologetically queer work like this in a place like Morgantown, I’m simply trying to carve out spaces where possibly difficult, but certainly important conversations can be had. This is not to say that Morgantown can be generalized as unwelcoming or marginalizing. I am deeply touched by the warm reception I feel that I have received in regards to this show. Soon, too, will the Monongalia Arts Center be hosting a show about gender divergency! Morgantown’s art scene is always growing in amplitude and inclusivity and I’m grateful to be a part of that at this time.

Z: What is your favorite thing about being an artist/creative/curator in Morgantown?

LT: By far it would be the students, graduate students, and faculty I’ve had the pleasure of learning from here. It took a while but I think I have finally begun to forge life-long connections at WVU. Our professor of printmaking, Joe Lupo, does an amazing job of helping his students make connections through visiting artists and guides those of us in the program with an open mind and individual attention. I’ve never known anyone to disagree that we’re lucky to have him.

Z: Any advice for young artists in the area?

LT: Young people will develop in a time of political turmoil and may be affected by budget cuts to The National Endowment for the Arts as well as other negative gestures and attitudes toward the arts. DON’T LISTEN. The arts are indispensable. Whether you’re inspired by the old masters, contemporary art, musicians, typographists, fashion designers, political artists, scientific art, performance, or anything else, your art has value. The arts have value.

The original installation of Lydia Taylor’s Before & After

Lydia Taylor’s Before and After runs Feb. 3-24 at The Diamond Shop Gallery at 320 High Street in Morgantown.

Sally Deskins is a writer, artist, and curator based in Morgantown. She is Arts Monongahela’s gallery facilitator. Email her ideas at sallydeskins@yahoo.com



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