The Bar Harbor Times June 26, 2008
All images and content copyright 1998-2010: Judy Taylor Fine Art, Mount Desert Island, Maine
A Labor of Love
by Nan Lincoln
TREMONT — Last September, artist Judy Taylor got the commission of a lifetime. She was contracted to
create a 10-panel mural for the Maine Department of Labor in Augusta that depicted the history of labor in
Maine from the 18th to the 21st century.
The job drew on Ms Taylor’s considerable talents as a painter, her imagination, and also demanded that she
spend a good deal of time researching her subject.
“I spent a lot of time in the Southwest Harbor Library, which ordered books for me; researching on the web
and talking to Maine historians before deciding what images I wanted to include,” says Ms. Taylor.
One of those historians was Charles Scontras, who became something of a mentor to her as she delved
deeper and deeper into her project. She has shown her gratitude to Mr. Scontras for his help by immortalizing
him in the first panel of her mural representing the age of apprenticeship. He is depicted as a cobbler
teaching a boy (who happens to be Ms. Taylor’s own mentee, Josh Worden) the tricks of the trade.
In fact, as it nears completion, Ms. Taylor’s mural is filled with the faces and forms of real people in her life,
standing shoulder to shoulder with, or taking on the roles of real historical figures. The woebegone children
with bandaged fingers and frowning faces in her child labor panel are the children of her friends and
neighbors. The women in her textile mill, holding handkerchiefs to their faces to protect themselves from the
lint and dust are women in her life, including her grandmother as a young woman.
It is interesting to note that the labors depicted in this mural are not the traditional jobs of coastal Maine —
fishing, fish processing, or boatbuilding — but the industrial labors of Maine’s interior.
In one panel peavey-wielding loggers wrestle a tree into a river. In another, angry shoe factory workers go on
strike. The chief of police who called out the National Guard to bust the strike looms in the background as a
black and white photo. Such photo images form the background of all the panels, which is both aesthetically
pleasing and eloquent evidence that the artist had a hard time deciding what historical images to use and
what to discard. So she just placed these photos in the backdrop of her primary subjects, like footnotes in a
fascinating book of history.
The war years in her mural are represented by the women who went to work on the factory lines to replace
their men who were fighting overseas. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins,
who had Maine family connections, and was largely responsible for our child labor laws, is honored in a
panel. Another panel depicts the 1987 yearlong strike at International Paper in Jay. A photo in the background
of this panel is of a bearded and burly Roland Samson, a former paper mill worker who became a
spokesperson and poet about the issues in that industry. Really one could spend hours in front of this mural
deciphering and connecting all the images.
In the final panel a generic worker-type passes his sledge- hammer to the next generation. The muscled arm
and hammer in the scene forms an iconic image of the labor movement (or baking soda for the cooks out
Ms. Taylor acknowledges that the young man, and the woman on the receiving end of this industrial tool don’t
look particularly excited, which is perhaps a reference to the dwindling industrial opportunities in this state.
The pallet Ms. Taylor has used is muted browns, blacks, pale blues, grays and dusky pinks, which both
suggest old photographs. And each of her primary figures is heavily outlined on black, almost like a coloring
“I saw a large Manet painting in New York before I started on this,” Ms. Taylor said. “And I liked the effect it
had, so I decided right then I would use that technique, which is pretty traditional for these large murals.”
Those outlines do make the images pop and will be especially effective when they are mounted at the
Department of Labor building in Augusta, four feet from the floor.
Asked if she included her own image in her mural, Ms. Taylor says “no” and then adds “But I used my own
hands and arms to get the gestures I wanted and weren’t easily translatable to a model. So even through my
face isn’t there, I am all through it.”
The mural is being created at Ms. Taylor’s gorgeous new studio and gallery on Rte.102 in Seal Cove,
adjacent to her home. The gallery will be opening on June 26 and while the mural will still be there until the
beginning of August, Ms. Taylor will primarily be showing her landscape paintings and portraits. Gallery
hours will be Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment 244-5545.