All posts by Susan Aaron-Taylor

About Susan Aaron-Taylor

Susan Aaron-Taylor is a builder and a storyteller whose hands and spirit work collectively to create works of art rooted in the traditions of alchemy and creative fantasy. A sculptor, teacher, and student of Jungian psychology, Aaron-Taylor mines the realm of dreams, archetypes, and the collective unconscious to invent mythologies entwined in personal history, mysticism, and ritual.

January Update

It’s been 10 month since my accident. I am happy to report that I am now walking 40 minutes each day with my pup Olive, doing my PT exercises, and working out at the gym three times a week. My daily studio practice is as rigorous as always. To see the newest sculptures, please check out my Endangered Series located under the Collections tab.

I have so much to be grateful for, but I am living my daily life with an underlying sadness and heart break due to the Pandemic, divisive politics, the disappearance of a huge number of our animals and habitats, global warming, and the deterioration of our culture’s values. Each day I consciously attempt to stay above the turbulent waves.

In the last stanza of this poem, Robert Bly, poet extraordinaire, aptly captured the sentiment .

Keeping Our Small Boat Afloat

Each of us deserves to be forgiven, if only for

Our persistence in keeping our small boat afloat

When so many have gone down in the storm.

August Healing Update/Sketchbook Images

My accident (see July Update) and subsequent operations left me in a wheelchair for a few months. I was instructed to not put any weight on my right leg, making it impossible to climb the steep stairs up to my studio.

The thought of not making art for at least 2 months was depressing. My husband, Harry and I devised a plan to create a makeshift studio on the dining room table. While I could not easily create sculpture here, I could journal, draw, and paint.

It was when I faced up to my depression, the severity of my physical condition, and the many months needed for healing and physical therapy that I realized I was in the “underworld”. I felt as though parts of me had died. Two Shamanic practitioners performed Soul Retrievals for me to reclaim fragmented pieces lost from my accident and the two-week hospital stay.

Soon the daydreams and night dreams began manifesting. I meditated and did shamanic journeying. It became apparent that I was experiencing an initiation that began with my accident and resulted in a descent into the underworld, the Dark Night of the Soul, the Alchemical phase of the Mortificatio/Nigredo.

I revisited my books on Alchemy and Jungian psychology and started charting my path out of the underworld via drawings and paintings. The following series of drawings were created as I accessed my mental and physical condition overlayed with the philosophies of Alchemy and Jungian psychology. I found truth in a quote from Carl Jung, “To the extent that I managed to translate the emotions into images-that is to say, to find the images which were concealed in the emotions-I was inwardly calmed and reassured”.

In the beginning I felt as though I was buried in the earth. I later realized that this was the start of my initiatory experience. I imagined myself weighted down by endless darkness, heavy boulders, and all-encompassing angry pain. Gradually the boulders were lifted. I saw myself on a dry riverbed, soon to have flowers blooming from my body and then to be immersed in purifying, baptismal waters. Nearing the end of my days in the dining room studio, I saw myself standing up with feathers floating around me, then flying high up into the sky, and finally manifesting, transforming, and rebirthing in to a primal, skeletal being.

Once I was able to begin physical therapy, healing moved more quickly. I bemoaned not being able to climb to my studio. Tim Wiater, my physical therapist, provided me with a cane to replace my walker and showed me how to climb stairs. I was encouraged to carefully go up to my studio taking each step slowly and consciously.

I spent the first week cleaning and organizing my studio and adjoining office. A few of my dining room paintings spoke to me. My first completed sculpture was Endangered:

Starry Night Toad. I pictured him isolated but growing rejuvenating foliage from his back. And from the darkness comes the light!

I am pleased to report that I’m back full time in my studio. My accident afforded me a transformational experience like the snake’s shedding of its’ skin. I have gained many insights, am psychologically stronger, more resilient, and compassionate. I continue to go to physical therapy and am slowly healing. My surgeon tells me that full healing will take a year from the accident. I look forward to March 11, 2022.

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July Update!

It’s been 4 months since my accident and I am pleased to report that I am making great progress. I am able to walk totally unassisted and can easily do stairs. This great news means I have been able to climb up to my studio and create new sculptures. The first sculpture to be completed is an Endangered Starry Night Toad. I am currently working on an Endangered Red Wolf. Images of both pieces are forth coming.

May Musings

A new challenge occurred a few months ago. On March 11th, a freak accident resulted in a displaced femur, fractured acetabulum and pelvis. After three operations and a two-week hospital stay, I was sent home with a wheelchair, walker, and physical therapy exercises. The directive is to keep weight off my right leg for 3 months followed by out-patient physical therapy to learn to walk again. I should see positive results at the 6-month mark and be good as new in a year. Needless to say, this has been a major setback. My studio is located on the 2nd floor of my home. Extensive stair climbing won’t happen for quite a while. My make-shift studio is now on my dining room table. I’ve had to redirect my art making process from sculpture to 2-D work. The good news is that my creative juices are once again flowing. My new studio routine includes Alchemy research, journaling, and drawing. I am receiving many insights along this healing path and remain optimistic for the future.

Making of Galapagos Penguin

7″x12″x7″ Wood, handmade felt, geodes, amber, hematite
Endangered Galapagos Penguins are found in certain areas of the Galapagos Islands and live on the equator. They are threatened by pollution, climate change, starvation due to extreme warm weather, and predators such as cats, dogs, owls, hawks, snakes, and sea lions. Strong El Nino events caused mortalities of up to 77%

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Making of Black Panther/Massasauga Rattlesnake

12″x13″x13″ Glass bottle, wood, gampi fiber, religious medals, beads, handmade felt

The Black Panther is considered threatened or even endangered mainly due to deforestation of habitat and human encroachment mainly for agricultural purposes.
The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake is Michigan’s only poisonous snake. The population of this timid snake has declined due to habitat loss, human persecution, indiscriminate killing, and illegal collection.

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The Making of African Wild Painted Dog

The African Wild Painted Dog is the third sculpture in my Endangered Species Series. I feel it’s important to bring these animals and their habitats into the consciousness of the public. Hopefully my work will draw the viewer to the piece and then remind them of all the animals that are being unconsciously eradicated. Many species are still alive albeit severely diminished in numbers.

I first began the series by researching the most endangered species. Certain animals spoke out to me. When exploring each animal, I was also drawn to their environment and how they struggle to adapt and survive in their ever-diminishing habitat. You Tube is a wonderful technology for viewing live footage.

Each piece is created with a handmade felt environmental backdrop and ground cloth or like the African Wild Painted Dog, a handmade felt terrain.

I hope you enjoy these in-progress images of my African Wild Painted Dog.

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Ancient Sites of Oahu, Hawaii

In January my husband and I visited Hawaii for a 2-week vacation. We spent a week on the island of Oahu and another week on Maui. When visiting the Bishop Museum on Oahu, a docent introduced us to the concept of ‘wahi pana’, sacred places of Hawaii.  These ancient geographical sites merge the spiritual with the importance of place. The ancient ancestors knew the earth’s spiritual essence was infused within these sacred sites, which included dwelling places of the gods, temples, and shrines. They appear as mounds, mountains, weather phenomena, forests, and volcanoes.
We discovered ‘Ancient Sites of Oahu, A guide to Hawaiian Archaeological places of interest’ by Van James in the Bishop Museum bookstore and decided to visit a few of these sites each day as we explored the island of Oahu. We had many adventures trying to locate these sites. We trekked for hours 1,000 feet up a steep and treacherous mountain only to discover that the site was next to the parking lot where we had entered! We ventured into residential neighborhoods and behind community centers to discover sites tucked between houses and into unlikely terrains. One residential site, ‘Healing Stones of Wahiawa’ only contained pictures of the 3 huge healing stones. We never found out what happened to the missing stones. This did not stop folks from leaving flowers on the altar. Most sites were marked with national plaques and many had informational signage. The following are several of the ‘Heiaus’, which are Hawaiian temples, stone platforms or earth terraces and ‘ahus’ or heaps, pile, altars, shrines. I hope you enjoy.

Haleakala National Park


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Slide Locations

  • Haleakala National Park
  • Inactive Volcano Crater on Maui
  • Kaniakapupu Summer Palace of King Kamehameha
  • Heiau in Residential Neighborhood
  • Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation

The Making of East Bongo Antelope

24”x29”x17” Handmade felt, hand stitching, needle felting, wood, stones, shells, crystal, cabochons.

The Eastern Bongo Antelope of Kenya is a critically endangered animal. Bongos are hunted for their horns and luxurious pelts. My Bongo has wings to bring attention to the fact that these beautiful animals are quickly becoming extinct. The felt wall cloth depicts the Kenyan habitat. The cloth is first hand felted and then needle felted to add greater detail. The borders are pieced together and hand stitched on to the larger cloth. The sculpture of the Bongo begins with a wooden armature. The hand felted pelt is then glued and sewn to the armature. Stones and crystals are embedded in the felt surface. I’ve added shells for horns and cabochons for eyes. The wings are made of wood. The last step is to saturate the felt of the animal with glue and the lightly sand the entire surface to a smooth finish.

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Historic Missions of the Southwest

This past May I spent two wonderful weeks visiting with my good friend Diane in Santa Fe. I brought along a list of places I wanted to visit and sites I needed to research for my work. As I look back on my list, I am amazed that we covered everything and more! The top priority was visitations to historic missions in Santa Fe, Truchas, Chimayo, and Taos, NM. While a few of the missions were not open to the public, several were open and in very good repair. I was most taken with Santuario de Chimayo. I had visited it many years before and remembered it to be quite an emotional experience. The site has been expanded to include several more outbuildings with more ‘touristy’ kinds of items for purchase. While the sanctuary appears to be a bit more organized, it remains a deeply sacred and holy place. I hope you enjoy the images of these missions and devotional images.

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Detroit Artists Market Biennial Exhibition

I am honored to have Threshold #7 included in Detroit Artists Market Biennial All Media Exhibition: Terrain. The exhibition was juried by painter extraordinaire, Jim Nawara and features work by 40 talented Detroit artists. It opens April 27-May 26.

Threshold #7 29”x14”x7”, Handmade felt, hand stitching, and beads
Threshold #7 29”x14”x7”, Handmade felt, hand stitching, and beads

Threshold #7 29”x14”x7”, Handmade felt, hand stitching, and beads
Threshold #7 29”x14”x7”, Handmade felt, hand stitching, and beads

Installation and Opening @ Connections Gallery

It’s been a real pleasure exhibiting my sculpture in Connections Gallery at North Campus Research Complex-University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Many thanks to Art Coordinator, Grace Serra for curating the show. I have enjoyed working with her immensely. I am also grateful to Dr. Dora Apel, Clara DeGalan, and K.A.Letts for the
writing such comprehensive articles on my work.

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