Sculptor Patty Taylor: The Splendor of Mystery

When gallerist Jennifer Perlmutter asked sculptor Patty Taylor where she could see her art, Patty had little to offer. She had no website, nor a significant body of work at home. But Perlmutter insisted. “People keep telling me I should see your work.” Taylor admitted that she had given her work away or donated it to silent auctions. “How generous of you,” said the gallerist. “Maybe you could think about selling some.” 

Perlmutter’s representation of Taylor began in 2016, when she exhibited as a featured artist at the Perlmutter Gallery in Lafayette, and lasted until 2022, when Perlmutter moved her gallery to Carmel. “My work fit well with Jennifer’s paintings. At first, I was the only sculptor she represented. She sold all five of the pieces I had there as a featured artist. It was unbelievable to me. She believed in me and became a good friend.” 

Patty Taylor glazing a torso sculpture

Born and raised in Dallas, Taylor was a free-spirited, imaginative, and creative child.

“I had a kid-safe pair of scissors, and I cut out paper shapes and figures that I glued on to everything,” she laughs. Shy as an artist, she was encouraged by an art teacher in high school to enter one of her collages in a contest at the University of Dallas. Only 14 at the time, she won first place, and was rewarded by the opportunity to enroll in a semester-length course in painting at the college. 

She enrolled at University of Texas in 1964 and completed the MFA and a teaching credential. “It was a free-spirited place, with really great artists that set the stage for many art movements in the world.” But teaching wasn’t what she hoped it would be. She only taught for a short time. 

Busts and necklaces
Mauvie bust

Changing direction, she worked as an assistant buyer at Neiman Marcus for a few years, before becoming an executive management recruiter in the banking technology industries. She moved to San Francisco in 1980 when her employer asked her to open a branch there. In 1987, she started her own business and had grown her company to four offices before a personal catastrophe struck. In 1989, the home she shared with her daughter in Clayton burned down. She was 41. Overwhelmed by the enormity of losing everything, she stepped back from hands-on management of her company. 

A therapist suggested that she go back to her roots and take an art class as a form of healing.

“I signed up for a ceramic sculpture class in 1990 at the Civic Arts program in Walnut Creek. “I didn’t choose sculpture. It was the only class I could get into at the time.” The class afforded her the opportunity to meet Skip Escondido, who influenced her to raku fire her works. She studied with Escondido, followed by Roger Yee. “You paint your sculptures as though they were a painting,” Yee told her. She was developing her voice in sculpture. 

She sold her business in stages during 2003 and 2004, fully retiring in 2007. She began studying with Michele Gregor beginning in 2014, whose work she first saw in Davis at the John Natsoulas Gallery. Although Gregor did not use raku, her juxtaposition of matte and glossy lustrous finishes resonated with Taylor’s style. 

“My work is always figurative,” Taylor explains. “I’m drawn to the curvy, smooth female figure and face. Music, fashion, and anthropology are interests of mine, and I incorporate them into my art.” Her females often feature a meditative expression, closed eyes, and full lips. “The closed eyes allow the viewer to create their own joy, their own drama, their own tragedy, their own idea of what the work is about,” she notes. 

One of her signature busts, Maeve with Bird, is currently on display at Arts Benicia as part of Art of a Community, a members-only exhibition.

In addition to her busts and torsos, she creates clothed figures wearing kimonos and robes. The Asian influence stems from a trip to Japan in 2019 where she learned the process of indigo dye-ing. The dye-master called her dyed work a “splendor of mystery,” which she likens to the mystery of Raku firing. “You can never quite know how it will come out. Some things are undetermined.”  

Taylor moved to Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, in 2014, where she is the Raku and Pit-Fire Master for the Ceramic Workshop. The annual pit-fire is a highlight of her year. “We live on land originally inhabited by the Saklan Indians. I have learned to honor that with the process of firing that we conduct every year.”

For more information about Taylor’s work, visit her website, https://www.pattytaylorflamedsculpture.com/ and https://www.instagram.com/pattytaylor_sculptor/, and https://artsbenicia.org/ Art of a Community runs through February 25, with gallery hours 1-5 pm, Thursday through Sunday, at Arts Benicia, 1 Commandant’s Lane, Benicia.