FARMINGTON – The Grand Canyon is best known for its enormity, and Farmington artist Marilyn Taylor recognizes that its sheer size can be overwhelming, especially from the perspective of the rim.
But when Taylor decided to paint a series of scenes from her 2018 trip down the Colorado River through the canyon, a collection that will be on display in a new exhibit at the Farmington Museum in Gateway Park, it was the little things that made her stand out Eye fell.
Taylor’s “The Inner Canyon: Rafting Down the Colorado River” is a series of 28 oil paintings that capture the canyon from large and small perspectives.
Taylor said she has probably visited the rim 15 times by now. But when she was about to celebrate a milestone birthday a few years ago, she decided to pull a long-cherished dream and signed up for a 10-day, 276-mile river cruise through the canyon on a pontoon boat.
This enabled her to see the canyon from the bottom up instead of the top down. It also gave her access to many of its lesser-known charms, particularly its plant and animal life, which she would never have been able to see from the edge. Taylor brought a camera, of course, and took pictures throughout the trip because she said she knew she would paint many of the scenes she came across.
But she said it wasn’t until she got home and started to work that she decided to create enough paintings from the trip to make up a whole exhibition.
âIt was like I was still in the canyon,â she says about immersing herself in the project.
Taylor was originally supposed to exhibit the work at the San Juan College Art Gallery. However, since this facility was still closed due to the pandemic, she happily accepted an invitation from the Director of the Farmington Museum, Bart Wilsey, to move the exhibition to this institution.
Most of the paintings in Taylor’s exhibition focus on the mainland rather than the river itself. And she said her concern about the rapids she would encounter certainly paused her.
“I’ve never had the urge to go rapids,” she said with a laugh.
Taylor made the trip in a large pontoon boat, so the experience wasn’t quite as adventurous as it was on a typical, smaller raft.
At some point the boat got stuck between two rocks, but the three female guides who led Taylor’s group of 12 quickly straightened the boat.
Sitting on a pontoon boat instead of a raft not only allowed Taylor to feel more secure, it also gave her the opportunity to fully appreciate the canyon’s beauty without being distracted, she said. She marveled at the perfection of the light at certain times of the day and how the towering canyon walls were reflected in the water.
Her favorite spot in the canyon was at the confluence of the Colorado Rivers and Little Colorado Rivers, she said. Describing the water as breathtakingly aqua blue, she said the tributary from Little Colorado was warm enough that she could get out of the boat and swim, even though it was only April. The confluence also features several waterfalls, she said.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of the experience, she said, was the sheer pleasure of sleeping outside. Like the rest of her group, Taylor had brought a tent but found it too warm even when the sun was going down. So she just curled up in her sleeping bag on the bare floor.
She was almost stopped when another member of the group felt a snake slide over her sleeping bag one night. Taylor vowed to spend the next night in her tent, but reconsidered.
“I thought, ‘This won’t happen two nights in a row,'” she said, chuckling. “What are the chances of that?”
Taylor has been painting for nearly a dozen years, with former Farmington gallery owner and artist Rod Hubble serving as her mentor.
She said the most valuable thing he taught her was to trust her instincts as an artist.
“Have a little faith in what you are doing,” she said. “If it feels right, do it.”
The two sometimes get together to paint plein-air paintings, and Taylor said she is still trying to mimic Hubble’s approach whenever she can.
Taylor said she enjoyed immersing herself in the experience of painting.
“When you are going through tough times, it can take you somewhere else,” she said.
âIt gives you time to make this other stuff go away for a while. … I relived my experiences (in the canyon) when I made so many paintings from this trip. “