We had the good fortune of connecting with Taylor Moon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Taylor, what are you inspired by?
I am inspired when I find uncanny similarities between unlike things or upon hearing incredible narratives of strength from unexpected heroes. Both sources of inspiration serve as a way to rationalize life and find new and interesting ways of looking at everyday experiences.
If you are exposed to two things enough simultaneously, you will begin to form associations between them, no matter how dissimilar they are. In fact, the more inconsistent they are, the more inspiring and curious the parallel between them becomes. This is the crux of my artwork. For example, I moved to the Midwest for a couple of years from Southern California. I was struck by the increased prevalence of the American flag there compared to LA. I also visually noted the increased sign pollution of fast food establishments, billboards, and casino lights. The way in which both the flag and the signage stretched toward the sky like animated patchworks of color was inspiring to me. In a way, the LED carnival and supermarket signs conveyed their own subculture in the same way that the flag communicated a larger culture. This inspiration manifested in an animation entitled The Drive Thru Nation, in which I metaphorically compared everyday street signs to flags that nationalized a different aspect of consumerist culture.
In another circumstance, inspiration struck again from routine observations but then coupled with the freethinking environment of the classroom. I was inspired by my repeated encounters with the homeless individual behind my apartment on my way to my Art and Aerospace course. I soon began to correlate the survival-based and nomadic practices of my homeless friend to that of an astronaut. I considered the visual similarities between homeless individuals’ makeshift shelters and lunar vehicles. Both appeared to be constructed out of peculiar materials and seemed foreign to their environments. I then began to ponder how both are protagonists that are removed from society, either socially through ostracization or physically through the barriers of space. They both carry their essential possessions with them, in the form of a homeless individual’s backpack or an astronaut’s primary life support. For me, the amount of similarities snowballed as I considered how both shared unconventional sleeping arrangements and weather-proof patchy attire and gloves. This inspiration led me to create an animation and comic panel series, entitled, The Nomad. In this circumstance, juxtaposing two archetypes metaphorically resulted in a greater sense of empathy and equality. I realized the struggles of one type individual can be paralleled to that of any other type of individual – no matter how seemingly different.
As a cheerleader of nine years, it was only a matter of time until that experience inspired me to think differently about another aspect of my life. In a time when I was grappling with my mental health, I researched the chemical and biological makeup of the brain for answers. The more I learned about how neurons fired in perfect timing, the more I visualized the synchronized routines of cheerleaders. The more I studied how different portions of the brain compensate for one another when one portion was inactive or underproducing chemically, the more I imagined the balancing act of cheerleaders lifting one another into a stunt. Inherently, cheerleading is thought to be more physical and psychology is considered more mental. Therefore, making a comparison across this duality interested me. How could the stereotype of the happy energetic cheerleader help me convey feelings of anxiety or sadness? This inspired metaphor led me to create an animation entitled, The Balancing Act – Psychology and Technique in American Cheerleading.
For me, inspiration occurs when I take a lived experience and utilize it to make sense of new information. This has resulted in many different art projects. I couldn’t help but notice the sharp increase in digital solutions for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that both computers and humans could get viruses seemed like an obvious but humorous parallel. I imagined a narrative in which viruses not only transmitted from animals to people (as it does with coronaviruses) but also transferred from technology to people. I pondered how very different the COVID-19 pandemic would look like if people were forced to socially distance from their own computers and phones.
This resulted in my animation COVID-19 A Digital Virus. This is one more of many examples in which I was inspired by finding commonalities between unrelated things.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Throughout my education, I have been told that the art world does not favor the young. Instead, galleries keep a watchful eye on upcoming artists, almost like a long-term stock investment. They assess, “Has the artist stayed committed to their craft after decades of practice? Maybe then we shall consider this one.” You then also hear about artists emerging onto the art scene in their twilight years. For women artists such as myself – especially those from diverse cultural backgrounds – who already have enough barriers to entry in the workplace and in the art world, undergoing this drawn out process feels like a luxury not afforded to everyone.
During my undergraduate studies, I was told that to be taken seriously as an artist, I would need to spend several years struggling to find my voice before applying to graduate school. This doesn’t take the years of artistic experimentation growing up. I had felt though this sort of mentality disregards those with a strong volition and a sure sense of one’s artistic voice. As a woman with two immigrant parents, I learned what “my voice” even means and found spaces where it is heard. I have often been curious as to who wrote these unspoken rules of artistic success into being. During graduate school, I was advised not to apply for faculty positions in higher education right away but instead should spend a couple of years hopping between jobs that would sustain my artist practice.
I have always had a strong self of what I have wanted to do. I knew from the time that I was young that the practical thing to do would be to teach art and design to then pursue my own artistic dreams with more financial freedom. I had heard enough commentary from acquaintances about “artists not making any money” to know that I needed to prepare fallback career goals should the art world be more inaccessible than I even predicted. Therefore, in undergrad at University of California, Santa Barbara, I decided to double major in Studio Art and Art History. My art history double major would allow me to break into museum and gallery spaces and better understand the administration behind art exhibition. I worked in undergrad to graduate in 3 years and one quarter and spent the remainder of what would have been my senior year applying to graduate school. During that time, I began freelancing as a graphic designer, gaining curatorial and exhibition experience, and working at museums (such as the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, and the Getty Museum). What made me most sure of my own artistic voice was a near-death allergic reaction during college that hospitalized me for ten days. It made me aware of the frailty of life and the preciousness of the time that I was dedicating to my artistic career path. Right after undergrad, I was admitted into the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Oxford at the age of 21. During that accelerated nine-month degree program, I continued to refine my art while applying to graphic design faculty positions. I obtained my first Assistant Professor of Graphic Design position at the age of 22. Today, I am an Assistant Professor of Design at California State University, San Bernardino at the age of 25.
I continued to pursue my art amidst teaching. Through the mentorship of my Oxford professor, Samson Kambalu, I was featured in Frieze magazine as an artist to watch in 2021. The article is located at the following address: https://www.frieze.com/article/artists-artists-samson-kambalu-rallying-taylor-moon?fbclid=IwAR0c32QzUNplE9Qjr8QLXfDcHZmEAmkjieYuYuSHV25aI1JmNKhq1BI1wGI. I found that through creating digital media and accessibility of online exhibitions, I was better able to reach a wider international audience. This led to me to exhibit my work with Next Museum, which based out of Germany. Next Museum is a virtual museum in partnership with NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, and Museum Ulm, Kuturstiftung Des Bundes. My interactive web cartographic experience from that exhibition is found at https://www.nextmuseum.io/en/submissions/lost-and-de-colonial/. Through another international opportunity, I was able to showcase my work, The Drive Thru Nation, at Plural.World’s “Urban Mobilities” online exhibition (https://plural.world/drive-thru-nation-taylor-colette-moon/ and https://plural.world/alternatives/urban-mobilities/). In the United States, my animation, Walk With Me, was published by the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics (https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/animated-portrait-inaccessibly-high-cost-care/2021-08). I also looked towards opportunities with my home-city, Los Angeles, and the wider Southern California area. I displayed my work at Open Walls (a virtual museum based in Los Angeles found at https://www.open-walls.org/), in their exhibition, Living-Room: In Between Realms. Thereafter, I exhibited at Las Laguna Art Gallery in California (https://www.laslagunaartgallery.com/current-show). I am highly grateful for those who have taken a chance on me with my art, looking past my youth towards the message of my work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I were hosting someone as they experience Southern California for the first time, I would take them to the Museum of Jurassic Technology (MJT). It is a Los Angeles cultural wonder. The uncanny, maze-like layout stands in stark contrast to the white cube of traditional galleries. Its dimly lit exhibition spaces differ widely from the brilliant lighting typically expected from museums. It doesn’t stand grandly in the center of town with white colossal pillars but instead is half-obstructed by a bus stop and wedged between other storefronts. It causes the visitor to question whether museums actually are the ultimate authority on art, history, and culture. Many of its exhibitions tread the boundary between a playful hoax, spectacle, and surprising truth.
Thereafter, I would recommend a fun cinematic experience! Seeing a new film on one of downtown Los Angeles’ rooftops is a must! Plus, the cityscape makes a great backdrop! Rooftop Cinema Club curates a cozy movie-watching experience, complete with deckchairs, a bar, and games.
If I were then to curate a Malibu day, I would then take my guest to Spruzzo’s, which is a great Italian food spot with a deck facing Zuma Beach. Not far from there is Paradise Cove Beach, which is a beach with a more quiet feel. The eponymously named Paradise Cove Cafe is also a great lunch option with tables situated directly on the sand. After dining out, I would show my guest the Getty Villa. This Roman-styled villa houses Greek and Roman statues and overlooks the ocean. In the center is a gorgeous rectangular pool surrounded by colonnades.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It is difficult to choose just one Shoutout out of many talented Southern California creatives. Haylee Moon is an exceptional graphic designer who has natural vision for typography, color, and photo editing. Stephanni Larsen is a talented photographer who captures simple moments that often go unnoticed in a beautiful way. Kerri Brett Daniels is a singer with the voice of an angel with her latest single, “Something to Prove.” Xander Rockney-Finger is somewhat a mad scientist when it comes to woodworking. He approaches sculpture like a visionary, imagining ways in which old stumps can be carved to resemble flames and other natural shapes.
I want to thank the Trevor Coopersmith for introducing me to Shoutout SoCal. He is an incredibly talented mixed media artist who works largely with spray paint. He makes surreal and deeply thought-provoking work! I also wanted to thank my mentor Samson Kambalu, a highly acclaimed and globally successful artist. He helped me refine and focus my work during my MFA at Oxford and has continued to help shepherd me into the art world. His work is inspiring and his mentorship helps me to think long-term with my own work
Other: My Instagram handle is @art.taylor.moon My other Youtube account is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsozS6ewH_sP-ZPrsj51daQ