Brett Taylor began making art in middle school after he was diagnosed with cancer in his leg.
During his treatment in an international hospital, he found it difficult to understand the complex jargon of the medical environment.
“For somebody who was young and even spoke English like me, it was difficult,” Taylor said. “So for other families from different countries who didn’t speak English, I thought to myself: ‘A picture could solve everything.’”
He began his studies at the University of Florida as a biological illustration student, determined to use imagery to change the way health professionals communicate with patients.
But as his time progressed studying both biology and drawing, he realized his artwork could advocate for that same group of people.
Four years later, Taylor (BFA Drawing '19) is graduating from the College of the Arts School of Art + Art History with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing with an emphasis in printmaking.
Initially, Taylor said his artwork was very literal and precise, a sort of medical illustration form of communication that he attributed to his start in scientific drawing.
“My biggest artistic challenge has been trying to find a visual language to best communicate my ideas,” he said. “Starting in scientific illustration, everything was so exacting and precise. And then trying to transition that into abstraction while still keeping a consistent message for the audience was really difficult for me for a little.”
Taylor focused on reinventing his artistic language through reading, which led him to discovering what is now a main element in his work.
“I utilize Crip Theory, the relationship between disabilities and queerness and the actualization of the self, as a connective dialogue between facets of my identity,” he said.
Having formerly been confined to a wheelchair for 5 years of his life, Taylor's work focuses on advocating for inclusive accessible space as well as analyzing how people present themselves in different environments.
“I want to create an environment that is accessible to everyone,” he said. “No matter what your ability, your race, your sexuality, or gender, I just want everyone to feel comfortable in a certain environment and not have to perform in a certain way.”
One of his most recent series of prints, titled Blueprints, started as collages inspired from literature published prior to 1990, the year the Americans with Disabilities Act became law. He used pages of architecture books and anatomy drawings to create designs that he calls reacclaimed self-portraits. The designs are then hand carved into wood blocks.
After mixing ink, he prepares an ink slab and rolls that ink onto the carved blocks. He puts it through a press to transfer the image onto the intended medium.
The result: vibrant blue prints.
“The blue monochromatic color scheme references the international symbol of access—the handicap sticker essentially,” he said.
As Taylor prepared and demonstrated one of his prints, his classmate and fellow class of 2019 graduate Juana V. Diaz helped prepare the paper and run the plate through the press. Meanwhile, music blasted in the background as the two laughed and joked about their experiences printing together.
“A lot of times drawing, painting, or sculpture, and other media can be done mostly by yourself, in your studio, and not need outside assistance,” Taylor said. “One really positive thing about printmaking is the element of collaboration.”
Taylor and Diaz explained that in the printmaking studio, they often have print days where they all come together to talk about their work, share ideas, collaborate, and even help each other print. They said the team effort required for the artmaking creates a strong family dynamic that makes each artist feel supported and heard.
After graduation, Taylor will continue his education at Ohio State University pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking.
He attributed his success to all of his prior teachers and mentors—not just from college but from every stage of his life—for their ongoing support.
Keep up with Brett Taylor and his work on Instagram @bretttaylor_prints