Published in Whidbey Life Magazine– 2019 Spring/Summer Edition
When Pam Kueny Taylor goes to work, something magical happens. Bespectacled vintage blackbirds perch high upon steampunk top hats, showing off their rain boots and umbrellas. Rainbow plumed birds stand sentinel on kaleidoscopes. Each whimsical bird sculpture gives us a peek into the imaginarium of this mixed media artist.
The reserved and self-taught Taylor has always been creative, dabbling in different mediums: stained-glass, toll painting, cross-stitch, rock painting, and even soldering copper (into gates for her garden). Whatever artistic medium captured her fancy, she learned the skills to bring it into being. In creating things with her hands, Taylor—quiet and reclusive—found her voice.”Art became my passion,” she recalled.
Six years ago, Taylor sought a unique Christmas present for her sister, a lover of antiques and birds. Armed with a fertile imagination and a sense of humor, Taylor began searching for supplies, scavenging through antique and thrift stores and digging deep into her art materials stash. Within a few hours, she had designed her first bird sculpture. It was a hit. And then her niece wanted one. And then… Before long she on her way to brooding a bevy of birds.
Taylor finds inspiration everywhere, including in her dreams. She says that she sometimes wakes in the middle of the night with an idea. “I’m the kind of person that’s laying in bed and goes, ‘Oh!’ I jump out of bed and grab a piece of paper and pencil to sketch out an idea.” Other times she is inspired by a particular object, event, person, or song. For example, her sculpture, Smile On Your Brother, is a nod to another age, when the Youngbloods encouraged a counterculture to be kind in a tumultuous time.
Taylor prefers to work over a glass of wine while her favorite music plays in the background. She spreads out her collection of ornamentations at the dining room table and gets busy. Taylor, a woman who likes solitude, keeps her hands and mind occupied to “prevent me from getting bored.” Like so many artists, she finds creating to be cathartic.
Each one of Taylor’s pieces takes about eight hours to construct; in all, she has produced some 130 bird sculptures. Assembled out of objects both found and crafted by her, she uses snippets of tape measurers, tiny clock gears, feathers, charms, and objets d’art to create her one-of-a-kind sculptures. Each is centered around a hand-painted wooden bird and a vintage base. “The birds are getting harder and harder to locate,” she said. Like many antique novelties, the birds are rare. She considers it a thrill to look for the trinkets and treasures she adds to imbue each piece with personality and meaning. Adornments are carefully selected to contribute to the arrangement, much like the layering of instruments contributes to an opus.
When scavenging a particular item proves impossible, Taylor makes it herself—painstakingly hand-stitching tiny leather boots or constructing a miniature broom. As a part of her signature as an artist, she places an identical hidden symbol in each of her pieces. Taylor takes great care with, and pleasure in, the details.
If the purpose of art is to provoke thought and emotion, Taylor has found her way. She produces pieces that join the new with the nostalgic. Of all the art she has made, the birds are her favorite. “There are so many things you can do!” she enthused. A different story—silly or serious, whimsical or weighty—is told by each sculpture.
Taylor’s admirers span all genders and ages. Men seem to be particularly attracted to the mechanical parts, while women seem to gravitate to the whimsy. The antiques in her art appeal to a mature generation, while the steam-punk references speak to the young.
In Taylor’s imagination, hummingbirds seek nectar from a flute; a goose mocks the antique car horn on which it stands. Her magical menagerie can be found at the Rob Schouten Gallery in Langley or the Courtyard Gallery in LaConner.
That is until her covey takes to the skies.