Birthday celebrations came early for area folk artist Arie Reinhardt Taylor, who turned 91 years old June 13.
Hickory Museum of Art hosted a birthday celebration Sunday, June 10, in its Entrance Gallery. More than 100 guests attended the celebration, which was held in conjunction with Taylor's exhibition, “The Catawba Valley Remembered: Paintings by Arie Reinhardt Taylor.”
Last week, Taylor said she was nervous.
“Yes, I'm nervous about the party Sunday,” she said. “I'm a private person.”
This week, Taylor said the party was “great.”
“No, I was not nervous, not a bit,” she said. “I sold 15 of my books. People really seemed to like my paintings and my book, which pleases me. This book is a dream I've had for years.”
The newly-published book arrived just in time for the party and features images of Arie's paintings and stories from her life.
The exhibition features 24 memory paintings of rural life events including corn shucking, moonshining and cotton picking.
“I picked many bags of cotton,” she said of her life growing up in the Vale area.
Taylor’s work also included area landmarks such as Banoak School, Gloryland Church, Bunker Hill Bridge and Murray’s Mill.
“I was born in Lincoln County, but we moved up here (Vale) when I was an infant,” Taylor said. “Most of my paintings are based on memories of the past that are so clear to me.”
Taylor grew up with the dream of being an artist, but art supplies were hard to come by.
“This was the Depression era — there was no way to have any kind of art supplies,” she said. “I had a few coloring books.”
However, in 1932, when Taylor was 11, the family's home burned to the ground. The family carried water from the spring, but there was no way to save their home.
“It was Saturday, and Mom built up the fire to bake,” Taylor said. “A spark hit the wooden roof. We watched it burn.
“We lost everything we owned except for one building — the grainery,” she said. “We lived in that until we could build another house.”
Later, Taylor's mother bought her daughter a few supplies with a little bit of insurance money.
“As far back as I can remember, I was interested in painting. In fourth grade at Banoak Elementary, my favorite class was art,” she said.
“In high school, I was excited to be asked to draw covers for our junior-senior prom program.
“There were no typewriters or copiers, so I did each cover by hand,” she said with a laugh.
Taylor recalls borrowing books and teaching herself to paint. Then, she enrolled in an art class at Catawba Valley Community College.
By the 1950s, her work changed from studio portraits to landscapes.
One day, Taylor's mother, noted folk artist Minnie Reinhardt, came to visit Taylor as she painted.
“I painted before my mother,” she explained. “But that day when she visited me, she picked up one of my paintings and asked if I thought she could do this.
“I helped all I could,” she said.
Taylor never paints two of the same paintings, and most of her work is done in oils. She enjoys all of what she paints, particularly cotton fields.
“That's something we did back then (pick cotton), and it's gone now,” she said. “It's nostalgia.
“I tried to show in my paintings the way farm life was for me growing up,” she said. “All these things are in the past and are no more.”
Now, at 91, Taylor continues to paint, although not everyday. She paints Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, until noon.
“Sometimes it's noon before I realize it,” she said. “In the beginning years, I didn't know when to quit. I would forget to eat lunch.”
Taylor said she is living the American dream — of being an artist.
“I can't lay down and give it up, I've got to keep at it,” she said. “God's been good to me and my painting, and I've tried to live a good life.
“I'm not going to sit here with my hands folded,” she said.
Taylor's paintings, she said, are based on memories of her past that are so clear to her.
“I hope in some way I can bring back a memory to someone of their past,” she said. “A part of that life is gone forever and only footprints are left behind. My footprints are my paintings.”
And now, Taylor adds to her memories her “big, square” birthday cake from Sunday's birthday celebration.
“The cake had pink and white icing, and in the center of the cake was my painting, “Family Reunion,” she said.
“And, I received a letter from Hickory Museum of Art telling me they received a generous contribution in honor of my birthday, by an anonymous donor,” she said. “If I knew who, I'd like to thank them. That pleased me so much.”
What: Arie Reinhardt Taylor's exhibit, “The Catawba Valley Remembered.”
When: Ongoing through Sept. 16.
Where: Hickory Museum of Art.