I have seen a lot of artists studios, but Trés Taylor may have the most amazing space in town. It is next to the Birmingham Weekly on 41st Street in Avondale. But passing by on the street, you would never have any idea of the spectacle that will greet you when you ascend the stairs. As you can read in the letter from the publisher, it is the old lodge of the Society of Odd Fellows.
They left amazing finds behind, including the costumes in which they apparently used to parade around. And as you can see from the photos, it is a beautiful, expansive, illumined space.
The day I visited Trés was revisiting earlier work from his starting days as an artist in Japan, working with brushes and rollers and even blowing paint onto rice paper to create the artwork-illuminated set for the performance of Arova Contemporary Ballet this weekend.
The work that has become his trademark also shows Asian influences, stylized figures painted on tar paper and highly varnished. And a 100-foot mural tells the story of how he found himself there.
It could just as easily be in our section called Inspire.
It all started when Taylor was inspired by the artwork of R.A. Miller when he was depressed with his job as a biochemist and a failed relationship. Miller was sort of a cosmic primitive, who told Taylor he too could be an artist.
Taylor took that dare and became a vagabond destitute, travelling the country. But he sold some of his work in a San Diego salon/gallery (salon, not as in Voltaire and Rousseau, but as in hair weaves and trousseaux) to a rice dealer in Japan. That is how he got the crazy idea to write to the Japanese collector and ask him to sponsor Taylor to come to Japan for three months to make art. The rice dealer agreed and flew Taylor to Japan and put him up atop a mountain in a hot springs resort. He painted prolifically and did an exhibition that was covered in the local paper.
He returned to America but a potter who saw the article asked him to return and flew him back to collaborate. But this time he suffered a block and could not work. The potter offered a solution: go for a walk in the woods tomorrow and God will give you something for your art.
So he went for a walk and followed a path that led to the top of the mountain where he found a shrine and asked for a sign and heard the wind rush. On the way back down the mountain path a shaft of sunlight lit up a clearing of ferns and plants as if the forest were on fire. He saw a golden flash and went to it and found it was a toad. And near the toad there was a large feather lying on the ground. He picked it up and heard a whistle. He looked up and saw an opening in the canopy where a hawk hovered over him inside a glow of light.
He went back to his lodgings and picked up the book he was reading by Joseph Campbell, and felt he had been touched by the forces of the forest. Campbell said that Native Americans and other different cultures understood the sign animals offered, and that the hawk was a symbol of creativity.
Inspired, Taylor painted all night and in the morning he heard the hawk’s whistle. He went outside and followed the hawk back to the path. He believed the hawk was telling him to reascend and give thanks for the offering. Every morning for 30 days the hawk called him out. The news reporters were back--we heard you can call a hawk!
The woman who would become his next wife was flying over to see his next show, Love Letters to God. he could not wait to show her the hawk. She arrived at night and the next morning--for the first time, no hawk.
Feeling the journey to the center of his own heart complete, where he knew his creativity would always reside, he tied the hawk feather he saved to a helium balloon and sent the feather back.