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Documentaries Close-Up preview: Artist Heather Taylor

Mon, Feb 13, 2017
Juli Sasaki, Wexner Center intern

On Saturday, February 18, the Wex's 4 PM screening of the Oscar-nominated doc I Am Not Your Negro will be preceded by GenWex Presents: Documentaries Close-Up, a round of group discussions delving into the art of documentary filmmaking. One of several local guests leading a group will be Heather Taylor, a multimedia artist and musician living in Columbus who has a BFA in cinematic arts from Columbus College of Art & Design. Her work expresses breathing as a motif, using fabrics and patterned objects to present a therapeutic, sensory experience through video, photography, sculpture, and performance art. Her video Dear at Dusk screened at the Wex during the 2016 Ohio Shorts program. As a preview of what's to come on the 18th, Juli Sasaki, a Wex intern and undergraduate student at The Ohio State University, spoke to Heather about her work as a filmmaker and the doc she'll be focusing on with her group, Crystal Moselle's 2015 film The Wolfpack.

Portrait of artist Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor (photo: Tariq Tarey)

Experimental and documentary are distinctly different ways of communicating through film. Do you see a connection to documentary practices in your work?

Yes I do. I feel that I am often connected to a more candid and raw moment or material in my personal work—an unpolished, minimally manipulated way of viewing something. I’m not one to stop something from happening during a shoot: if it works with what I’m going for, then I let it flow. I would rather allow the occasion to unfold, depending on concept, which leads to less structure and allows the piece to feel freer. I often film something and achieve the visuals I have in my mind before I develop a concept.

As a filmmaker and a movie lover, what about non-fiction film appeals to you?

Non-fiction helps me learn and expand my mind. Real people doing real things in real places—it’s relatable and easy.

Do you remember the first documentary that really stayed with you?  

Paris Is Burning, a 1990 film from the female director Jennie Livingston. It took her a long time to film and produce it, years and years, which I find intriguing. I’m also extremely supportive of female directors; the cinematic world is very male-dominated. More importantly, the content she documented was extremely real and reflected what was happening at that time, and the personalities interviewed were absorbing to me. I appreciate types of documentaries like this: those that show someone’s life, people doing what they are passionate about, not allowing anyone to get in their way, and fighting night and day for who they are as individuals.

The Wolfpack documentary

From The Wolfpack (Magnolia Pictures)

Tell me about The Wolfpack and why you chose it as the film you want to focus on for this event.

The Wolfpack is a film about the Angulos, six brothers (and one sister) who are confined in an apartment in a New York housing project with their parents. They find ways to entertain and educate themselves, turning to movies for inspiration, and they create these impressive, homemade costumes to re-enact scenes from the films they like.

I chose this particular film because I appreciated the organic documentation of their lives, especially the private interviews with the boys where they shared their feelings about their upbringing. Their awareness and passion for film within a film also appeals to me. Part of me felt I related to this family, growing up in an almost desolate countryside home where my siblings and I were always finding ways to entertain ourselves, whether it was being outdoors or being inside, playing video games and watching movies.

The Angulo brothers used their creativity to escape isolation. You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that a period of loneliness in your life brought you creative inspiration. Do you feel a connection there?

Yes, isolation has brought me great inspiration to be alone with my thoughts and ideas, and I think when you have nothing else, it’s easy to create a reality for yourself that might be more satisfying, especially as an artist. There are many distractions these days with social media and technology that can easily consume us.

What do you hope the people coming to this event will take away from it?

I believe that discussing and analyzing film is important, as it is with any other medium of art. I hope everyone who comes will have even more knowledge of documentaries that they have seen, or have the motivation to go home or to the theaters to watch the ones discussed.


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