November’s featured artist is Taylor LeBlanc, a senior student of art at the University of Southern Mississippi. Each month, Deep South Voice will feature a new artist from the region along with a gallery of their work. If you or a regional artist you know would like to be featured, please contact us.
In an art studio at the University of Southern Mississippi, Taylor LeBlanc is working to solve a problem before he graduates next spring.
“A real professional artist has a problem, whatever it may be, and they’re out to find a solution to that problem,” he explains to me. “The artists themselves make the problem. Whether it be they’re trying to get blue and orange to work together, or whether they’re trying to show a certain concept in their work, they’re still trying to set out to do something.
Taylor’s problem, he says, is all about the contrast between the organic and the geometric. He explains that he still “really enjoys the organic world” and “the flow of the paint and the movement of ink.” The idea is to bring in geometric elements – such as shapes, squares, and rectangles – as complements to the organic.
“I’m keeping everything as simple as I can and trying to make that organic really show off,” he says.
He uses the example of a landscape to help me better understand.
“You’ve gotta have that contrast in there or it’s just washy ink all over paper,” he says. “If you don’t have something like the face in a figure or a tree in a field, it’s just wash. So these pieces are me breaking that down and looking for an even more simple way to solve this organic-geometric problem.”
Taylor creates these works using his current favorite medium – ink – in combination with rubber cement. “You can have the perfect square, and then ink bleeding on paper, and they’re total opposites.”
In the pieces he showed me, I can really see how the organic and geometric play off of one another. But his problem, he says, still isn’t solved yet.
“A completed work that solves the problem is what all artists are after. Sometimes we get things that still look good but it didn’t necessarily solve the issue we were trying to solve. It’s still a great piece of work, but to the artist, they aren’t going to consider that a completed piece.”
Taylor says he’s always enjoyed painting and drawing – even before he was trying to solve a problem. Back in high school, he recalls, he sanded down a guitar and made a piece of art out of it by painting it.
But art school has challenged his preconceptions and shifted the way he approaches art, he says.
“In art, you show a lot of yourself, no different than writing a song or a book,” he explains. “I just thought that I was going to have to show much more of myself than I had to. It’s no different than standing in front of a crowd and singing. You still put yourself out there.”
The difference from what he expected, he says, is the emphasis on formality.
“I thought art was a lot more about concept. You know, you had to have some deep dark hurt in your life and paint it out on a painting. I didn’t think there was as much right and wrong as there is.”
When I ask him who his inspirations are, he turns to British artist Joseph Mallard William Turner, whom he describes as “an impressionist before Impressionism.”
“Turner would be the one I look to most for his use of color and he really solves that organic to geometric while still having great concepts,” Taylor says. “He used that mast of a steamboat as his geometric break within this world of just color explosion.”
Next spring, Taylor LeBlanc will be putting his efforts towards solving his problem on display with his senior show, which he says will either be held on campus or in Downtown Hattiesburg. It’ll be his last big hurrah as an art student at USM.
After graduating, Taylor says he’s hoping to get a master’s degree and go on to teach. The degree he’s about to get won’t be his first degree, however.
“I got a degree in drafting and design, which was more about the money – trying to get quick money quick,” he says. But after deciding that spending 8 hours a day on a laptop wasn’t the future he wanted, Taylor returned to school to pursue his true passion.
“$25 an hour is nice, but if you don’t even want to go to work, then what’s the point? I’m totally down to make a little less money, wake up early, and be happy to go to work.”
If his time as an art student is any indication, that’s not just wishful thinking.
“I knew it was the right thing when it wasn’t homework. When I was just staying here past 6 p.m. and doing more than I was supposed to. You know what I mean?”
Deep South Voice features a new artist from the Deep South region each month. If you or an artist you know would like to be featured, click here to contact us, or email sample work and other pertinent information to editor (at) deepsouthvoice.com.