By Patrick Szabo

The welcoming and brightly-painted murals and paintings found in galleries and public spaces across Loudoun might be inviting scenes to take in, but the darker and more intricate pieces included in Purcellville artist Patricia Taylor Holz’s “Deus Ex Machina” exhibit stimulates the senses in a more unusual way. 

Currently displayed at the Gum Spring Library in Stone Ridge, the exhibit includes close to 100 one-of-a-kind art pieces of individuals Taylor Holz photographed and merged with mechanical workings like gears, gauges, pipes and airplane parts. The black-and-white panels are displayed along a curved wall in the library and will continue doing so until Aug. 31. 

The works are a realization of an idea Taylor Holz hatched a few months ago, when the Loudoun County Public Library system asked her to create and display a piece of art at its July 20 Star Wars Night at the Rust Library in Leesburg.

Purcellville artist Patricia Taylor Holz’s “Deus ex Machina” biomechanical digital portrait display in the Gum Spring Library portrays humans merging with machines.

Taylor Holz said that in trying to figure out what the library wanted—something that would appeal to Star Wars and, more generally, Sci Fi fans—she decided to work on a piece that would portray cyborgs in a more personal way. To do that, she photographed 75 people who stopped by the Franklin Park Arts Center in June during the Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour, focusing her shots on the human eye. “I always try to capture an expression,” she said.

She then headed off to the city to photograph the lunar module and other space program equipment at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC and submarines at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Purcellville artist Patricia Taylor Holz’s “Deus ex Machina” biomechanical digital portrait display in the Gum Spring Library portrays humans merging with machines.

After that, she took two weeks to compile the hundreds of photos and merge them to create images of humans in different stages of their transformations to machines—creating a paneled mural she said is a “biomechanical tapestry, like a keyboard.”

“I was around the clock—I loved it,” she said about the work. “I would go hours without eating.”

And going hours without eating is exactly what the subjects portrayed in her art display would do if they were real cyborgs—kind of like the characters in David Cronenberg’s 1999 movie “eXistenZ,” which inspired Taylor Holz.

While that movie came out two decades ago, Taylor Holz’s art career began long before that. She has been drawing and painting as long ago as she can remember and, at the age of 9, was moved into an adult oil painting class.

As she got older, she was set on becoming a production designer for film but was forced to go about that dream in a different way when she realized there wasn’t a specific production design area of study in the 1980s. Rather, production designers came from art and theater backgrounds. Knowing that, Taylor Holz found herself in the art and theater world, eventually earning a master’s degree in set and costume design and moving to New York City to work on independent films and on Broadway set designs.

She worked on the first production of “The Lion King,” on “Beauty and the Beast” and as a painter, sculptor and director for The Muppets on Sesame Street. She later got a job working as a window designer for high-end department stores like Tommy Hilfigerand frequently traveled to stores in eight countries to set up their window displays. “My work took me around a lot,” she said.

That lifestyle came to a close for Taylor Holz when she got married and started her family. At that point, she became an art teacher and taught at community colleges, community centers, churches and even Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. “I kind of had to redefine myself and reinvent myself,” she said.

Now decades into her artistic career, Taylor Holz works as a painter, designer and freelance artist out of her home studio in Purcellville.

Her “Deus Ex Machina” art exhibit, which she recently added onto with photos from residents at Star Wars Night, will be displayed in the Lovettsville Library from Sept. 3 to Oct. 31. She’s looking for Lovettsville locals willing to get their photos taken to be a part of the ever-growing exhibit.

Beyond that, Taylor Holz said she would like to expand the piece to include the images of 500 people and is in talks with NASA’s outreach education coordinator about possibly displaying the piece at one of the federal organization’s venues, or maybe even at Dulles Airport or another museum in the area throughout winter.

Those interested in being a part of the project may contact Taylor Holz directly at patotaylor1@yahoo.com or 610-551-2789.

pszabo@loudounnow.com