Six years ago, Garner resident LeGrant Taylor said “the good Lord spoke to me” while he was sitting on his couch after a car accident. On the way home from a physical therapy appointment, he obeyed, picking up a canvas and some paint. He hadn’t had an art class since ninth grade, and was self-taught.
“My wife thought I was losing it,” Taylor said. “She thought I was a little out of my mind. Then she saw it.”
Now a growing number of other people are seeing it, too, as the 46-year-old’s profile as an artist has risen – during the past few years in particular.
What started as something to kill downtime during recovery has become something more as exhibitions around the area have featured his artwork. He also took a prize at the 2013 N.C. State Fair, and on Friday, UNC-TV filmed part of a feature it will run on him in July.
The show “Black Issues Forum” will film Taylor and his art at a show in Durham. He will be interviewed in-studio with the show’s host Deborah Holt Noel on June 27, and it will air next month.
“Painting was kind of a hobby, but now I’ve picked it up as kind of a second source of income now. I don’t want to call it a part-time job ... a new venture for sure,” Taylor said. “Everything has been happening kind of quick.”
After moving to Garner from Angier in eighth grade, Taylor has spent most of his life in the area. By profession, the Lakemoor neighborhood resident works for a printing press, but it turns out he doesn’t need a machine to put something of value on paper.
After he started, he said people told him he should put his work into art shows. Eventually he did.
His oil on canvas work utilizing what he describes as a blend of styles began to catch the attention of a number of people. This will be his fourth year participating in the African American Festival held annually on Labor Day weekend in downtown Raleigh.
He said that festival was where he first started having people recognize him and eventually led to other opportunities. He said he also got support and interest from members of his church, Hatchet Grove Church in Morrisville.
But it was 2013 when things began to really get rolling.
Last winter, the Garner Performing Arts Center displayed his work as part of Black History Month activities. He had just done his first feature show not long before and each of the shows drew 200-300 people, he said.
“From there is when everything, all the shows and different things, started,” Taylor said.
Around that time, Stephanie Freeman of North Carolina Central University contacted him and filmed a half-hour documentary (posted to YouTube in April, 2013). In it, Taylor describes how he became an artist and talks about a number of his paintings, their inspiration and their meaning.
“That’s kind of pushed me out there, too,” Taylor said. “That was a big boost.”
Since then, he’s had a number of big moments.
His piece “Mancave” won third place in the professional art category at the State Fair. (He said the piece, which depicts three men and a checkerboard, represents the earlier, modest, simpler version of where men would gather in the house as opposed to in a large room with a pool table and big TV.)
Another point of pride for Taylor was being able to present Judith Jamison and Debra Saunders-White paintings this spring at an event at N.C. Central.
Jamison, a famous dance instructor from New York who had also earned international acclaim as a dancer, was in town to give a guest lecture. Saunders-White became the first woman appointed as permanent chancellor at North Carolina Central.
His work also was on display at Artsplosure, an annual art festival that runs in downtown Raleigh in May. That’s when Noel approached him about the public television feature.
The whirlwind has taken Taylor by surprise, just like the car that rear-ended him and altered his life six years ago. Of course, it’s left him with plenty to keep himself busy. And he takes pride in his duty to share his gifts.
“They’ve been kind of finding me,” Taylor said when asked whether he’s been actively pursuing opportunity or whether they’re finding him. “Now I’m starting to understand that it’s a little more than what I thought it was in the beginning.”