One to Watch

Taylor O Thomas’ gestural paintings document her search for artistic freedom

Taylor O Thomas views her gestural abstract paintings as stories, likening their layers and mixed materials to an ever-evolving plot. These works are physical, mental, and spiritual explorations of issues she questions daily, including self-identity, faith, and control. Taylor works with a variety of mediums, including acrylic, oil, graphite, pastel, and charcoal, and emphasizes the movement of her brushstrokes, documenting her search for artistic freedom.

Taylor is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of South Florida and received a BA (Magna Cum Laude) in Studio Art from Davidson College, North Carolina. She’s exhibited her works in solo and group exhibitions across the US in cities including Tampa, New York, San Francisco, Nashville, and Charlotte. Her most recent solo exhibition was held at Arthouse3 in Tampa.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

My artistic practice centers on paradoxes that I question daily, specifically those embedded in faith, control, and self-improvement or identity. As I create, I grapple: Where is God in the marks that I make? What does it look like to “let go” physically and mentally? How can my painting reflect authenticity above perfection? There is a constant search for freedom in my work, as well as an acknowledgment of the limitations and tactility that come with being human. The process is just as significant as the final pieces that document my inquiries.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

Show up. Unready, unwound, under-the-weather, however you have to, simply show up. I can’t remember who told me this—perhaps I read it somewhere—but the two-word command has been pocketed away in me since. It is easy to get stuck in elongated states of brainstorming or to-do listing, but mental progress only gets me so far until I’m stagnant. Showing up means that, at the very least, I move—past intending and into doing. At the end of the day, it does not matter if the marks I made were good or terrible; as long as I made them, I got somewhere.

Do you prefer to work with music or in silence?

Music. If I am in a belting mood, I sing my heart out and pretend I’m the fourth sister with the band Joseph. When I’m easing toward the final stages of a painting and need to be more reflective, my go-to group is Penny & Sparrow.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

Passing up a work by Joan Mitchell or Cy Twombly would be difficult, but I would choose Thirty Pieces of Silver by English sculptor and installation artist, Cornelia Parker. I can only imagine getting to walk through that installation everyday, seeing my body’s movement impact the dangling objects as I pass them—almost “giving back” some of the impact they have on me.

Who are your favorite writers?

I love digging into works by Anne Carson, William Wordsworth, Rainer Maria Rilke, Søren Kierkegaard, and William Wellman.


About the Author

Jessica McQueen is Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at