Now At MAM: Janet Taylor Pickett’s The Matisse Series

Janet Taylor Pickett

Montclair artist Janet Taylor Pickett has been chronicling her life with Matisse for the past several years through her multimedia art. She says that as a little girl she dreamed of becoming an artist, and when she discovered the art of Henri Matisse, she fell in love with his colors and images, and wanted to live inside his rooms.

In The Matisse Series, Taylor Pickett has meshed elements of art not only from Matisse, but the Dutch masters, and her own personal life experiences as an African-American female artist in a vibrant and captivating show of her works, now on exhibit at Montclair Art Museum through June 18.

On a recent walk-through of the exhibit with the artist, Taylor Pickett, warm, passionate, and engaging, explained her method and her muse – and the inspiration behind diverse templates such as 3-dimensional blue dresses, accordion booklets, 76 collages, and her milestone installation Sixty-six Dresses: An Odyssey (2014/15).

Janet Taylor Pickett’s The Matisse Series

She invites the observer to “put away your cell phones” and really try to communicate with the art. You see layers upon layers of new and familiar images: Matisse’s Moroccan-French motifs, 17th century Dutch homescapes, windows, the color blue (which she says is important in African-American tradition), traditional African design, light, shadows, and invariably the artist herself, or a family member.


Each piece has depth and composition which draws you in, each piece representing a personal journey. Archways, columns, windows and light are recurrent themes in the patchwork of partial images ripped from journals, books, art catalogs, and digital photography – each layered story unfolding with textile, acrylic, photos, ink drawings to draw the observer in.

Janet Taylor Pickett's The Matisse Series
There are a lot of dresses in this exhibition. Dresses are Taylor Pickett’s iconic template. Each dress is a vessel of her expression, her story. “I’ve used it as a vessel to fill, to identify, and express my journey as an African American woman, daughter, mother and artist.” Indeed, the art is multi layered, multi dimensional, Matisse’s oriental, florals, and color motifs always peeking through.

Lora Urbanelli, MAM Director, introduced Janet Taylor Pinkett as a “regional treasure – an educator, mentor and leader” in the arts. Pickett served many years on MAM’s Board of Directors, founded the African-American Cultural Committee, and was a vital part of the museum’s education program for children.

Observing Bounty and Promise, 2013

Now a resident of Southern California, Pickett’s exhibition dovetails nicely with the year of Matisse programming at the museum. Gail Stavitsky, chief curator, and her staff have mounted a gorgeous display of the pieces on display – an elegant “welcome home” to a member of the museum’s family.

Contemplate the red and white fashionista display of Pinkett’s Blue Bottle Dress and Indigo Bottle Dress at the entrance to the exhibition, the 66 paper dress cut outs layered with collage elements arranged on the wall as if in flight – “all become visual records, captured memories, observations and inspirations.” At the end of the exhibit, there’s a gorgeous photographic reproduction of Pinkett’s “The Observer” enlarged and backlit like a stained glass window. Enjoy. Then go through and look at it all again.



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