Bring Your Own Sky
There is an organic and mythical mix in
Susan Aaron-Taylor's colorful world.
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few days before her exhib-
it, "New Works," opened
at Xochipilli Gallery in
Aaron-Taylor was thinking about
the proper "gallery environment"
for her sculptures.
She was sitting on her porch
when the idea came to her. "I re-
alized," she said, "that the sky
was just the color I wanted."
So naturally, the gallery walls
were painted a sky blue-violet. It
was just like "bringing the sky in-
side," she said.
Her decision seems only nat-
ural. Inside Xochipilli, Ms. Aaron-
Taylor, a Pleasant Ridge resident,
has created a world where the or-
ganic and mythical
have been shaped into
stark and challenging
sculptural forms. Why
not bring your own
"My work is narra-
she said. "Through my
sculptures I tell stories
and usually there's a
symbol of what's hap-
pening in my life."
Her 19 pieces of
sculpture, which range
in size from 10 to 28
inches, are formed pri-
marily from wood and
a common modeling
compound. But there's
about Ms. Aaron-Tay-
lor's work. She's an in-
tense and focused
artist who doesn't wait
for inspiration, but
rather digs for it.
As if searching for a
form while sanding a
piece of wood into
shape, Ms. Aaron-Tay-
lor passionately looks
for signs and symbols
in her studies of
mythology and the
writings of Carl Jung, Susan Aaron
Joseph Campbell and
Her studies of universal myths
and various cultures — includ-
ing Native American, Egyptian,
African and Jewish — typically
serves as the beginning point for
"I start out with what's hap-
pening in my life, something per-
sonal that I can make universal,"
A teacher at the Center for
Creative Studies (CCS), Ms.
Aaron-Taylor has been a sculp-
tor for more than two decades.
She began her career as a fiber
artist shortly after graduation
from Cranbrook Academy of Art;
today, she heads CCS's fiber de-
sign department. Her work was
featured in the opening exhibit
at the Detroit Gallery of Con-
temporary Crafts (in the Fisher
But she always had a love for
three-dimensional art. "I'd go
around and find things on farms
like skulls and old wagon
wheels," she said. "Then I'd make
these three-dimensional sculp-
"As a fiber artist I liked the
touch of yarn, and as a sculptor
the clay I work with is wonder-
fully soft and malleable," Ms.
polar forces of yin and yang, mas-
culine and feminine, dark and
light. Rich in detail, her work is
augmented with glass, fossils and
stones. Often taking up to three
months to complete each sculp-
ture, Ms. Aaron-Taylor has
adopted a regiment that allows
her to work four days a week on
her sculpture and three days a
week at CCS.
As she has stretched to include
"polar forces" in her work, Ms.
Aaron-Taylor also has stretched
as an artist, said Lisa Konikow,
manager of Xochipilli, where Ms.
Aaron-Taylor's work has been
regularly shown over the last sev-
Taylor's Deity XII
Aaron-Taylor said. "It makes it
easy to be intuitive."
Her current exhibit, which
took several years to create, deals
with the basic life cycles, Ms.
"These pieces are about
birthing, emerging, death and
resurrection. They're as much
spiritual as revelatory."
It also seems they are partly
self-expression and partly a mir-
ror held up to her heart and soul.
Ms. Aaron-Taylor transforms
wood, clay and other embellish-
ments into embodiments of the
"She's always studied arche-
types," Ms. Konikow said. "But
she's gone beyond polishing her
incredible technique. Her work
is truly a sign of our times. These
are the '90s, people are looking
within themselves for answers."
These days, Ms. Aaron-Taylor
begins to "look for answers" while
she works amid piles of wood in
her second-floor home studio. She
is always on the lookout for a
piece of wood that has "a certain
flow to it."
Friends and former students
keep their eyes open, too. In fact,