ARTIST OF THE MONTH: From small packets of methamphetamine to miles of mountains in southern Arizona, photographic artist David Taylor reads between the lines – the border lines – to capture the complex minutiae that form the bigger picture of undocumented immigration and deportation.
“Armory, AZ, 2008” (above right) shows a storage room loaded with hundreds of silent but deadly rifles, while “Kilo Vehicle Interior, NM, 2007” (left) reveals the stark aluminum innards of a truck used to transport border-crossing detainees.
The concept-driven photos are featured in Taylor’s award-winning series Working the Line, and the group exhibition Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns, which runs through Jan. 11 at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The show focuses on themes of secrecy, violence, power and subterfuge.
An art professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Taylor took advantage of his proximity to the border in 2007, when he began documenting dramatic developments with a digital camera. The build-up of the security infrastructure – the fences, cameras, electronic surveillance – was unprecedented.
“It was the most dramatic change along the Mexican-United States border in history,” Taylor says. “Prior to 2006, the area remained unchanged. After that, there was more physical change along the border than [in] the hundreds of years that preceded it.”
Taylor aimed to make provocative but apolitical images. “I was interested in making images that don’t demonize, but rather give the sense of nuance – to potentially be dramatic but also be understated,” says Taylor, 48, who grew up in Massachusetts, far from border issues. “Whether it’s a drug smuggler or border patrol, these are people making a living. I wanted it to be that deadpan.”