Briefly describe the work you do.
Through my engagement with automotive and motorcycle culture and the use of the technical skill set inherent to them I strive to create a platform in which to explore contemporary issues and describe them visually through material. This engagement ultimately leads to the exploration of what it means to be a young, reckless male navigating through contemporary culture with high art interests and a low brow upbringing. The product, usually a three dimensional object, becomes a catalyst for thought through pointed material decisions.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I am a shop rat. My father is an automotive paint and body man by trade; consequently I grew up quite literally in the shop. My first in-depth interaction with the use of material, shape, form, and volume resulted from direct contact with automobiles. Viewing life through this lens allows me to weigh the dualities of contemporary culture, utilizing the blue collar skill set I inherited as a young man in the shop. Custom car culture arose from the inequalities of blue and white collar life. Those who couldn’t afford the Cadillac took it upon themselves, through hard work, to stand out from the crowd by souping up their Chevrolets. The hard work of those trying to keep up with the jones’ created a cultural aesthetic approach that continues to enthrall me to this day. This is the type of ground up, hard working mentality that serves my studio practice on a daily basis.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I operate in a live/work space that I renovated in a warehouse building in Tampa, FL consisting of a 1500 square foot studio space and a 500 square foot loft living space. Growing up, both of my parents were self employed and as a result, their places of work became like residencies for my brother and I. The hours spent at my fathers automotive shop as well as my mothers hair dressing salon instilled in me a work ethic that melded work with life. As a result my studio practice tows that line. Aside from my phone, I have no TV or internet service which forces me to do what I have always done, tinker with and make things in the shop. Whether that means tuning the carburetor on my motorcycle or laying fiberglass on the most recent sculpture, the art practice and my inner gear-head continually converse providing unique insight to each facet of my studio production.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Growing up I had very little exposure to fine art. I was a good drawer and painter, but lacked any art historical knowledge until I was barraged by it during my undergraduate studies. At that point I was humbled by my deficiency and have continually worked to broaden that knowledge base as it has come to feed my studio practice conceptually. Reading is not a usual pastime growing up in the shop aside from shop manuals, magazines and parts diagrams (which also inform my work) but I have made it a priority for my personal studio practice. I guess I did not envision becoming a perpetual student and how well the conceptual research aspect of my studio practice could serve the material outcomes.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I work in bursts. My work is typically a realization of fairly detailed sketches. The sketches come first in large waves. Due to the material costs of each of my projects, I feel the need to work the ideas out on paper to flush out questions and concerns both technically and conceptually.
The point at which I decide to start one project over the other varies. I can be a completely monetary decision, an upcoming show, or simply finding the exact material or object necessary for sale on craigslist (I am an avid craigslist scanner). Once the project or projects are set in place I usually work non stop to get them realized. Due to the intense physical labor of grinding, cutting, filling, sanding and finishing the cycle repeats itself with a new wave of sketches.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
Graduate school provided the change of scenery and focused research necessary to take my work to the next level. The dislocation from Canada to Florida was a great turning point in my practice. Florida is a crazy wild upside down place in which to live, let alone be a cultural producer. The weather allows for the custom car and motorcycle scene to flourish year round which suited my practice well. During my time at the University of South Florida, I was lucky to have great professors and peers that really helped unpack a lot of hangups in my practice. It was through their collaborations that I was able to more fluidly meld the automotive side of my upbringing with my fine art interests to create a dialogue in my studio practice that has continued to propel me forward. Now almost 3 years out of grad school, the same dialogue continues to stir and surprise me. Einstein said that a hypothesis never really provides answers but instead creates exponentially more questions. I would like to think that each piece I make acts in this same way, driving me exponentially towards further pieces.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I have spoken a lot about my childhood and family, without that upbringing I physically could not make the type of work I am making and I am truly lucky to have such a supportive parents and family.
My wife Kara is super supportive. A former professor and someone I look up to, Iain Baxter&, told me that to keep making(artistically), you have to find someone who will put up with and even support you artistic antics, Kara does that and more.
The artists I look at are all over the board including and not in any particular order Harley Earl, Erwin Wurm, Dali, Ken Price, Ed Keinholtz, Ed Big Daddy Roth, Kenneth Howard, Liz Cohen, Robert Williams, Maurizio Cattelan, and the list goes on.
I continue to gather influence from custom car and motorcycle magazines though literarily, Dave Hickey’s book Air Guitar would probably stand out paramount among readings that have shaped my practice, specifically the essay“The Birth of the Big Beautiful Art Market”. The explanation of how the post-war era “finned” automobile design changed the minds of the public from wanting A car to wanting THAT car is the crux of my interest in cultural aesthetics.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
Growing up in the shop and making good MONEY in a utilitarian trade will always try to pull you from the glamorous position of starving artist. I had the grades to go to college for mechanical engineering. Quitting that to go to art school may have been the best decision of my life! The technical and entrepreneurial skill sets I learned from both of my parents (who are extremely hard and meticulous workers) have served me better than any college degree. Those skills when put into action through fabricating for other artists, literally paid for both of my BFA and MFA degrees.
Aside from my studio practice I play hockey a couple times a week, try to go fishing when I can and I tinker with cars and motorcycles. I’m working on a few older Harleys and my 68 chevy C-10 pickup currently.
Taylor Pilote (b. 1985, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada) received his BFA from the LeBeL School of visual arts at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada and his MFA from the University of South Florida in Tampa. His work has been featured at the Canadian Sculpture Society, Toronto, the Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL, and represented in ArtMRKT Hamptons in Bridgehampton, NY as well as Scope, Spectrum and Select Fairs in Miami. He was a speaker at Tedx TampaBay in 2010.The artist lives and works in Tampa, FL.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.