From Bicycle Parts to Work of Art: An Interview with Cordell Taylor
Cordell Taylor is one of Agora Gallery‘s talented represented artists. He usually works in metal, wood and stone sculpture, but this year he was given a new challenge. SRAM Bicycles and the Kimball Art Center invited artists nationally to submit portfolios, and from the applications they chose 25 artists to participate in an exhibition on behalf of the SRAM pART PROJECT, in support of World Bicycle Relief. Those artists, of whom Cordell was one, received a package of bicycle parts, and the instruction to create a piece of artwork that incorporated at least 25 of them. From there, they were on their own! Cordell found that he loved the challenge, and the knowledge that he was being given the chance to help others through his art – but that didn’t mean that there weren’t some difficulties along the way!
What first made you think of participating in the SRAM pART PROJECT?
I had applied to the Kimball for an exhibition and several people there have followed my work over the years. They saw another piece of mine, one that I was commissioned to create for a client and which was included in an exhibition at the UMoCA. That particular sculpture incorporated a bicycle (as you can see in the image below) and that got them thinking, and they asked me if I would be interested in participating in the SRAM pART PROJECT. Of course I always like a challenge, so I accepted.
How did you decide what to make with the parts you were given?
This was not easy. I actually set the pieces out on my work table and spent about a month trying different compositions and directions with the provided parts, without gaining ground.
It was very frustrating because many of the parts had no relationship to the others and there were not any obvious solutions. Even cutting the pieces into different shapes didn’t seem to spur an idea. Thank God there were a lot of parts!
What was the most challenging aspect of participating in the project?
Up until the moment I unpackaged the parts I was quite confident about finding a solution, but it turned out that realizing a composition that felt natural was really a struggle.
Were there any surprises?
I have worked in film for many years (“127 Hours” – James Franco, “Tree of Life” – Sean Penn and Brad Pitt and “Darling Companion” – Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline, as well as many other movies) – I worked in Set Construction and as a Prop Designer and I am often approached by the Production Designer to come up with solutions for different scenarios, so I decided to approach the piece as I would in that situation.
Digging through a box of collected parts I came up with an idea that I thought would help me to at least get the work moving forward so I reached back to my “Techno Series” (you can see images of artwork from that series, ‘Expedition’ and ‘One World’ in this blog post) for some direction – something that hadn’t occurred to me before. The Techno series was back when the internet was just starting to become a major part of our lives. Of course, computers and the internet were pretty frustrating to use a lot of the time, and I was interested in the kind of virtual reality that was starting to develop and in some cases even supersede physical reality. My art in the Techno series explored that – and, of course, these issues are if anything even more relevant today.
In what ways did this project differ to your normal work?
In most cases I have more direction from the client and the materials have already been chosen. With this exhibition, I had no idea what I was getting and very little direction outside of the rule that I had to use at least 25 of the parts.
How did your ordinary way of working impact your work for this project?
Many years ago I realized that in order to create, an artist has to put him/herself in a place where they can become creative.
My solution to this is to go to the studio and pick something up and just get started. “DO IT EVEN IF IT’S WRONG” because the biggest challenge to producing art is starting the piece.
Do you think working on this project has had an impact on your other art?
Yes. I also feel that the experience has caused me to want to return to some older works and reinterpret them into new works, perhaps similar in direction to the “Geo-met Series” with cleaner lines and finer finishes.
What do you think you learned from the project?
That my desire to create is more powerful when I know the outcome will benefit those in need. And… that no good deed goes unpunished!
My experience with this project has been great and I look forward to the new challenges the future holds for me.