Visiting Artists Showcase Creative Careers

by Elizabeth Davis

“The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-ninth of it being above water.”

This idea presented by Ernest Hemingway definitely holds when considering the lives of Zoe Strecker, Transylvania University’s visiting Kenan artist, and Dr. Richard Taylor, the school’s visiting Kenan writer. As their careers show, teaching classes is only the tip of the iceberg for these two creative talents.

Before and during their time at Transy, Taylor and Strecker have devoted a great deal of time to their craft.

Strecker worked in a completely independent fashion as a full-time artist before taking up her role as a professor. Originally, she entered competitions for large-scale, public-style sculptures — projects that could often take up to two years to complete and included a design for the Sept. 11th memorial at Ground Zero in New York City.

“It was almost like architecture,” she explained.

Additionally, she was involved in all aspects of the work’s completion after its design.

“Everything, all the way from the installation to driving the rental truck,” Strecker said.

She later quit because she said it is important to be part of the national art conversation, a conversation that is communally focused and involves a physical way of taking one’s mind to the past.

After they were created, Strecker said, “The projects dropped out of my life.”

Taylor has been inspired to write since before he was in high school, having had an uncle who instilled in him a love of language. He later became an English major in college and rose to the position of editor of his school’s literary magazine.

“Most English majors have a latent desire to create and become writers,” he explained.

He started writing more seriously in graduate school and went on to writing books. After he began his career, he went on to earn two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and become the Kentucky poet laureate in 1999.

He has published six books of poetry, two novels and some collections of nonfiction ranging from a monograph of Lincoln to a history of Leestown, Ky., in relation to a distillery.

“All of us, whether in the creative arts or in insurance, need to have some sort of evolution (in our careers),” Taylor said.

At Transy, Strecker has a studio on campus and recently had her own show in the Morlan Gallery. Taylor said that he performs readings as he may be requested and facilitates other readings, too. He’s also in the revision process of a series of sonnets concerning John James Audubon.

In addition, both are currently working on a show for the Morlan Gallery that will be centered on horse-related items from Transy’s Special Collections. This show will coincide with the World Equestrian Games.

Creative talents from all over the state will be featured, including Taylor, who will be writing an essay, and Strecker, who’s more mysterious about her piece.

“You’ll have to go see it,” she said with a smile.

But neither was aloof about what a great time they have had working on the project.

“I think everyone had a lot of fun,” Taylor said.

Both said that the collaboration among intellectuals of different disciplines is one of the main reasons why they came to Transy.

“I carry around my in-process works and engage in the intellectual community,” Strecker said.

Taylor said that Transy’s campus is “open, accepting, and supportive.”

“Everyone at Transy says ‘Go! Do it! Call it this!’ ” Strecker said.

And both are just as encouraging to those who want to pursue the creative arts, as long as students are willing to put in the extra work it takes to pursue their fields.

“It’s not just play. But even when you’re practicing, you have to keep that sense of play,” Taylor said.
Strecker agrees.

“Artists have to be so nimble and extremely disciplined,” she said. “You just have to be willing to be brave.”


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