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ART : Painter's Remarkable Feat : Tim Taylor, who holds a brush with his toes, overcame disability, professional disappointment to tap into his talent.

August 11, 1995|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

BURBANK — Certainly, Tim Taylor would not have chosen to paint with his feet if he'd had the use of his hands.

Paralyzed from the neck down by polio in 1954 when he was 6, he regained his ability to stand and walk, but his arms and hands were left almost useless. He watched his siblings draw and yearned to do the same. One day while they were out of sight, he picked up their crayons with his toes and made his first marks.

Since that day, art has mattered in Taylor's life. But the road to becoming an artist is daunting for anyone. It can be substantially more difficult for a person with a disability. There were major disappointments along the way before he chose to follow his own artistic ideas in the 1980s.

It was then that he started painting what he calls "vibrational art." One can see more than 20 of his energetic, abstract paintings in his solo show at Burbank's Creative Arts Center Gallery. Among those works are a few representational images he did for the Assn. of Mouth and Foot Painters Worldwide, a Switzerland-based group he recently joined.

Also on view is the work in progress "At the Lake," which he will work on periodically during the exhibit. When complete, it will present Taylor's vision of the lake shrine at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Pacific Palisades.

"It is one of the most peaceful places on Earth to be," Taylor said. It was there, in 1983, that he began to practice meditation. "All this has sprouted out of that," he said, scanning the gallery.


In 1975, three years after the Cleveland native received a bachelor's degree in art history and design from Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, he moved to Los Angeles with the desire to apply his design skills in an entertainment-industry art department. But no one offered him a job.

Several years of struggling to find meaningful employment in that industry wore Taylor down emotionally. A chance visit with friends to the fellowship center proved a "spiritual reawakening," he said.

During his search for work in Hollywood, he had "gotten away from art," he said.

Through meditation and bodybuilding, Taylor tapped into his art-making abilities, which were initially developed in industrial-art classes at the Sunbeam School for Crippled Children in Cleveland.

He described those classes as "therapeutic and rehabilitative."

By 1987, he was using high-intensity colors to convey a sense of motion across a canvas. "Blue Ice" and the frenzied "Mommie Said 'No!' " are two of his earliest paintings, created with a brush held between the toes of either foot. "I'm ambidextrous," he said.

This vibrational art is "the creative attempt to express how all elements, objects, thought and feeling are in constant motion, how each has its own particular vibration," Taylor writes in his artist statement.

More recent pieces combine such elements as blueberries, nuts, seashells, eggshells and leaves with vibrant paint colors to create dense textures.

A figure appears out of the seashells, starfish, silk and ivy of "On the Way to Bodega Bay."

The face in "Once Upon a Time" recalls a childhood sweetheart who moved away when he was 13. Her father "refused to allow her to write to me," Taylor said, confirming that this was because of his disability. "It was an experience that transcends time and culture."

Despite such memories, Taylor perseveres.

For instance, one notices that only portions of his canvases are framed. With polio, he was "stuck in a big tin can," he said. "I fought so hard to regain my physical strength and independence. [The partial frame] represents expanding consciousness and breaking boundaries, a lack of confinement. It's become my signature."



What: Vibrational Art by Tim Taylor.

Location: Creative Arts Center Gallery, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. Ends Aug. 24.

Call: For information on when Tim Taylor will be painting in the gallery, (818) 238-5397.

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