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The Queue: Alison Elizabeth Taylor

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

The Queue: Alison Elizabeth Taylor

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
Alison Elizabeth Taylor marquetry hybrid titled The Residency, 2022.

Alison Elizabeth Taylor, The Residency, 2022, marquetry hybrid, 42 x 51 in. Photo by Dan Bradica.

Alison Elizabeth Taylor fashions thin slices of wood veneer, paint, photography, and collage into elaborate tableaux in a new medium that she calls “marquetry hybrid.” Her work depicts the denizens, dwellings, and landscapes of her hometown of Las Vegas and her adopted home of Brooklyn. Taylor’s Las Vegas thrums with pool goers, gem shows, showgirls, desert dome homes, hoodoos, canyons, and hypnotized gamblers. In her New York City pieces, a bodega entrance is a portal; a man in animal print sneakers cuts hair under the Williamsburg Bridge.

Taylor combines her painterly approach and fragile materials into work that is nerve-wracking to make but immensely rich. “I feel a sense of relief when the work gets into a solid form and I can cleat it, hang it on a wall, and begin to paint and collage it,” she says. Widely shown, exhibited, and lauded around the world, Taylor is the subject of a new book, Alison Elizabeth Taylor: The Sum of It, from DelMonico Books and the Addison Gallery of American Art. She wrote about her Brooklyn studio and the challenges of her medium in the Summer 2023 issue of American Craft. | @alisonelizabethtaylor

Alison Elizatbeth Taylor in her studio.

Alison Elizabeth Taylor in her studio. Photo by Vincent Dilio.

How do you describe your work or practice?
I’ve created a medium that I call marquetry hybrid, a synthesis of painting, collage, photography, and wood veneer inlay. The underlying structure is marquetry: cutout shapes of different species of wood veneer put together to form the drawn image. On top of this layer, I create painted surfaces: scraping into wood with thickly textured paint, pyrography, oil paint, and pigment prints. My subjects are drawn from what I observe; many subjects come from my walks around Brooklyn or my hometown of Las Vegas. I sketch what I notice in the world, combining what I’ve observed to reconstruct reality in new scenes while hoping to get at deeper understanding.

How did you come to marquetry hybrid as the medium for your work?
I trained as a painter but realized my subjects needed the visual power of marquetry. After a few years of doing pure wood marquetry, I thought it would be interesting to bring in painting, photography, and other materials—I could find new sources of meaning through these intersections.

What are the greatest joys and challenges of working with wood marquetry?
The greatest challenges are moisture and keeping the wood veneers flat so I can cut them. The greatest joy is finding ways for disparate materials to exist on the surface and add meaning to the subject through their proximity.

Alison Elizabeth Taylor marquetry hybrid piece titled The Hotel’s Pool, 2023.

Alison Elizabeth Taylor, The Hotel’s Pool, 2023, marquetry hybrid, 93.75 x 130.25 in. Photo by Dan Bradica.

Do you listen to music, podcasts, radio, or audiobooks while you work? If so, what has stuck with you lately?
I love the Literature and History podcast. When I get down or frustrated with what I’m doing, I put on Santigold. Her artistry—combining different sounds and moods—gets me going again. Her work is so layered that there is always something new to discover.

If you could have work from any contemporary woodworker for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
Sandrine Viollet is magic with her straw marquetry! Atelier Viollet is a family endeavor with multiple generations working in the studio. They make beautiful work out of a variety of materials that Jean-Paul designs.

Which craft artists, exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
I’m very excited about the Max Beckmann show coming up at the Neue Galerie in New York City (October 5, 2023–January 15, 2024). Artbook / D.A.P. is putting out a book on painter Sylvia Sleigh in February. I just finished Glenn Adamson’s Craft: An American History. The Baltimore Museum of Art is putting on a show, Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, 1400–1800 (October 1, 2023–January 7, 2024), which will include historical marquetry works by women—I’m very excited about that!

Stack of American Craft magazines with the Summer 2023 issue on top.

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