Mark Taylor in his studio circa 2011.

Mark Taylor in his studio circa 2011.

Imaginary Lamp Empire is a business run by filmmaker and visual artist Mark Taylor, who lives and works in San Francisco and Mokelumne Hill, CA, a gold rush town located in the Sierra Foothills. All lamps are unique originals made by hand. Lamp shades are sewn-paper collages; lamp bodies are combine found objects with hand-made ceramics created by artist James Aarons. All shades use heavy acid-free rag papers and are preserved with UV and moisture-lock archival protection. All lamps include new sockets, plugs, switches and wiring.

Imaginary Lamp Empire began when Taylor casually expressed an interest in learning how to sew. The next day a neighbor showed up bearing her mother's 1960's-era Singer sewing machine. After a few lessons, Taylor began stitching together the detritus found in his print shop, which consisted mostly of discarded screen prints. These became art pieces, and shortly thereafter lamp shades. Re-purposing a couple of lamps he had lying around the house, Taylor created his first "product." The basic formula was in place, and the “Lamp Empire” became slightly less imaginary.

The lamps fit in nicely with Taylor's visual art, which has found its way into the artist book collections at many U.S. institutions, including: the New York Public Library; the Library of Congress; Stanford University; the University of Southern California; the Palace of the Legion of Honor; the Rhode Island School of Design; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; and the New York Museum of Modern Art, among others.



The process starts with shopping; Taylor visits thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales in search of unique objects that people have forgotten how to love. He takes them back to his lair, disassembles them and begins the process of combining them with various ceramic forms that come out of James Aarons' kiln. Some parts require special treatment: cleaning, stripping and sometimes the application of new patinas. Once the lamp bases are built, Taylor creates plain, white mock-ups to determine the size and shape each shade should be (they usually range between 7" to 12" in diameter with varying heights). Then the collaging begins. From a large vat of colored paper consisting mainly of colorful screen prints and small digital prints on heavy, acid-free, rag paper, Taylor begins composing what he calls "pelts," which are basically flat rectangular compositions. Once these have been assembled using various colors of thread, a separating zipper is sewn onto either side. When zipped up, the pelt becomes a cylinder that is attached to lamp-shade rings with linen book-binder thread. Add fresh sockets, new wiring and switches and you've got yourself a brand new, one-of-a-kind lamp!

Artist Statement

I rob from the graveyard of pop culture and splice together new creations (screen prints, sculptures, videos and collages) that feed off the history of cherished objects. I excavate, reuse and reanimate pop artifacts in service of a personal narrative. Set inside an increasingly virtual, digital universe cluttered with the remains of material culture, my work explores how possessions can also possess.

Long Bio

Mark Taylor is visual artist and experimental filmmaker who lives and works in San Francisco and Mokelumne Hill, CA. He has been making experimental films since 1985, but has just begun making other kinds of objects after recently receiving an MFA from California College of the Arts. Well, maybe that's not entirely true; Taylor dabbled in performance, poetry and bookmaking in the 1980s and then made a limited-edition book, Sensing the World by Echo, in 2006, which now resides in the Artist Book collections of New York's Museum of Modern Art, the University of Southern California, and the University of Connecticut, among others. Up until a few years ago, Taylor primarily saw himself as a filmmaker, producing short, mostly 16mm films that have screened in festivals, galleries and museums around the world. His film, Lesson 9, received an NEA grant, was distributed by Frameline and was purchased for broadcast by the BBC in England.

Today, Taylor pretty much makes whatever he wants in whatever format (primarily screen print, video, film, photography, text, etc) is appropriate to the project at hand. He likes to excavate and reuse cultural detritus to his own narrative ends, and is always on the lookout for new ways to tell stories regardless of medium and often without language. He founded KQED Arts, the online arts magazine for the Northern California public media station in 2005 and was the Senior Interactive Producer for Arts and Culture there until 2015. Taylor is currently teaching in the Media Studies department at the University of San Francisco.

Taylor began making lamps and started Imaginary Lamp Empire in November of 2015.

Mark Taylor was born in Paso Robles, CA in 1964.