Ken Taylor is an Mexican American artist who grew up in Bakersfield. Bakersfield, amongst other things, is known as the Salad Bowl of the world, because it literally is where the salad that we eat is grown, picked, cleaned, packed, sent and sold to grocery markets and restaurants all over the country. Cowboy hats came about in the 1860's, and became ubiquitous in the mythology of the west, imprinted in our identity through westerns. The hat represents the rugged individuality that Clint Eastwood mastered in films like Pale Rider and the Spaghetti Westerns of the 70's. The hat as the main prop alongside the handgun, signalled the supremacy of the individual over adversity, and the elevation of the hero into the pantheon of American iconography. In Bakersfield and the Salinas Valley, the Cowboy hat however is much more than that. It is an object of great utility, protecting low paid Migrant workers from the brutal sun that relentlessly marks the work day during picking season. It is under these skies and with the views of the mountains crossed both literally and figuratively that Ken Taylor finds his Cowboy Hats flying in the sky, soaring above the mountains, free from man and free from the mythologised values of identity both shared and individual of the west. Ken Taylor's Cowboy hats gather at night like storm clouds, they cover a cadmium red filled mountain with a cadmium yellow peak, they fly over Mountains like clouds and sometimes they resemble mountains within a landscape of mountains. Van Gogh is somewhere there, not the Van Gogh of the tropics, but the Van Gogh of the South West. Ken Taylor sometimes finds his figures in paintings wearing a cowboy hat, or more accurately the Cowboy Hat wearing the figure, for Ken Taylor's characters are majestic and larger than life, bigger than the anonymous, unseen and critical laborers that keeps our Southern Californian economy going. Under and over and on Red, Blue, Blue Black, Yellow, Light Blue skies on top of shimmering layered mountains thick with oil paint Ken literally, paintbrush in hand, dances his painting into existence. The Cowboy is the mountain and the sky is blue, filled with clouds that are giant flying floating hats, and in this melee we can only think of the majesty of those who toil and the magic of those who serve our economy and lives. Ken Taylor is a young artist with a tremendous future who has invited and welcomed us to his world.
Cowboys and Mountains: A Ken Taylor Story
Stefan Simchowitz, Vogue Italia, Mar 24, 2021