Taylor Dean Harrison – From Burning Man to the Big “O”

Now through March 23, Kaneko galleries present the Light exhibition, which celebrates several multi-media artists and encourages visitors to interact with each piece. Taylor Dean Harrison, creator of Enunciation and Rocky V on the second floor of the showcase, uses stainless steel panels along with thousands of LED lights to portray a variety of colorful patterns that he uses to connect to moments from his past. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect,” he says. “Now, I’m sort of an emotional architect.”

Starting his journey as a college basketball player for the University of California at Berkeley, Taylor could have gone on to become a professional basketball player were it not for an injury that upended his career. Transferring directly into the art program, he knew that art “was always my path, but basketball was hard to say no to.”

Photo: TaylorDeanHarrison.com

Once Taylor decided to pursue art full time, he apprenticed with large-scale sculptor Michael Christian from the Bay area. After three years of learning, he received his first grant from the Burning Man organization to start crafting large-scale sculptures on his own. With a goal of creating contemplative and meditative objects in which people may simply exist, he draws inspiration from the vast Black Rock desert where the festival takes place annually. “I had been going to Burning Man ever since I could sneak off in August, but at the end of the day, I kept going back for the big art. It seemed so out of reach,” says Taylor.

From concept to composition, the process of creating Enunciation was extremely design-heavy. Taylor describes, “it’s an additive process rather than a subtractive process, and a lot of it is on the computer.” With months between an initial sketch to completion of a computer-generated plan that was ready to be executed, Taylor relied on the assistance of friends and family that came together to build the sculpture itself. His brother alone “took nearly 300 pieces of stainless steel, bent them on a 100-year-old tool to a specific degree,” and finalized the measurements for the final product to fit together as precisely as possible. “Seeing everyone working on this project was pretty amazing,” recalls Taylor. Inspired by different times of Taylor’s life using photos and memories as color palettes, Enunciation “is imbued with these moments of my life and these places in my life. The hope is that this beauty that I see in the world, I can replay in an abstracted way.” Struggling with depression himself, Taylor’s primary focus with his art is to bring the public moments of mental and emotional clarity and peace “with each work that I create. That’s definitely what happened with Enunciation.”

Photo: TaylorDeanHarrison.com

The way Enunciation and Rocky V are set within the Kaneko museum brings the viewer to another world. Set in total darkness, Taylor remembers that “as soon as everything was installed, I realized it was a perfect place for the sculpture because it really got to fulfill the purpose I built it for, which is to give people a moment of quiet; a moment of wonder where they don’t have to think about anything else.” His favorite part about the Kaneko exhibit is the fact that “amongst a crowd of people, you can have a quiet moment with the sculpture. It allows for this one-on-one interaction. Something I’ve always been interested in is the social dynamics of a piece, so there is a different experience with five people inside versus just yourself.”

Currently working towards creating public installations, Taylor is working on the logistics of transitioning his art pieces so that they may “exist in the public sphere and be vandal-resistant and public-proof. Something that can stay beautiful that is safe for absolutely everyone to be a part of, that is definitely a goal.” His most recent project involves light frequencies and the way they play with the cones within the eye. Certain nanometer frequencies affect how one sees colors like blue, red, and green. When these lights shine from particularly designed panels, the cones in the eye become overwhelmed and turn themselves down. Taylor explains, “if you are sitting in a certain wavelength of blue light, your brain is going to take that input, and when you step out of it, things look pure orange. If you bathe in the green light, when you approach the world outside of the light, the world is pink.” With a simple yet fascinating concept, Taylor is innovating his next project to trick the audience’s eyes and bring them a rare and unexpected experience.

As a freelance artist, Taylor has had to navigate his way through the art world as a businessman as well as a creator. He advises, “what I say is, you are running a business and you need to treat it as such, and if you don’t you are not going to be successful at it.” Turning his cheek to the concept of being a “starving artist” he believes in the forward-thinking notion that one can make the life you desire as an individual while still being successful, but it requires hard work and patience. “You’re the only one running it, you are the only employee and must constantly be creating,” he stresses. Among his other exhibitions, Taylor has been extremely pleased with the Kaneko gallery showing of Light and recommends it to anyone curious about multi-media and large-scale artwork. “Kaneko is the best place I have seen Enunciation so far, because it really is aligned with its purpose.” Because of the museum and the communal aspect of the art world in Omaha, he said he looks forward to the next time his travels bring him back to the Big “O.”

To see more of Taylor’s work, visit his website at http://www.taylordeanharrison.com or visit his Instagram page @taylordeanharrison.

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