BAIA BITS: Betty Blayton-Taylor
The question is not what artist Betty Blayton-Taylor did. The question is what didn’t Blayton-Taylor do?
A multitalented painter, illustrator, printmaker, and sculptor, Blayton-Taylor was also co-founder and Executive Director of Harlem Children’s Art Carnival (CAC), co-founder and Board Secretary of the Studio Museum in Harlem, and co-founder of Harlem Textile Works. Over the years, the Williamsburg, Va., native acted as an activist, a consultant, and a board member for numerous arts and community-based organizations. In 1984, her educational contributions brought her acclaim as the Empire State Woman of the Year in the Arts. In 1989, Blayton-Taylor won the New York State Governor’s Art Award and, in 1995, she added the CBS Martin Luther King, Jr. Fulfilling the Dream Award.
Blayton-Taylor has been characterized as a metaphysician, “spiritual artist,” “spirited educator,” and, by her own description, a “spiritual impressionist.” She was known for her exploratory approach to art, her abstract and compelling use of texture, form, and color.
Unfortunately, color was an issue from the beginning, and it was far from abstract. As a talented high schooler, Blayton-Taylor chose to attend Syracuse University’s prestigious school of art. The 1936 Dovell Act, passed one year before Blayton-Taylor was born, provided scholarships for Black college students educated out of state because the state of Virginia had no Black colleges with accredited arts programs and little desire to educate Black college students. She took full advantage of her four-year ride before forging an extraordinary career in the fields of both art and education. Blayton-Taylor’s abstract works can now be found in collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Spelman College, Tougaloo College, Fisk University, and in numerous private collections.
“The themes of many of my paintings are directly related to my study of metaphysical laws, which govern the universe,” Blayton-Taylor once said. “These ideas relate to reincarnation and the possibility of lives lived between lives, the acceptance of spirit guides, the acceptance of the uses of one’s intuition and the possibility that this life is one of many lives lived here in Earth’s school, to teach us certain lessons. These are the things that I have pondered and still often ponder when I am working. I do not expect my viewers to know what I have in mind when I am creating a work, but I hope they will have a positive sensory response to the work, on a level that their own insights are stimulated.”
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