In retrospect, the sudden orchestra of lightening that traversed the sky from Lawrence to Kansas City last Thursday evening was certain to hold an important lesson. The beauty, suddenness and power of the storm were a reminder that we cohabit a world filled with forces larger and more unknowable than our awareness. Earlier that evening, your NCECA Board was sharing time with old and new friends gathered at he Lawrence Art Center, excited at the approach of NCECA’s conference to the region. Among those gathered was the friendly and supportive face of recent NCECA Secretary Glenda Taylor, who early Sunday morning was struck and killed by a vehicle while warming up on her bike for the Kansas Time Trial.
As I contemplate the inevitability of my own physical aging, I reflect on my own personal history. I’ve been working with clay since I was 14, exploring various forming methods and how my actions leave their permanent mark on the clay. The creative process of forming has always provided at least part of the inspiration for whatever idea I’m exploring. I feel as if the clay is telling me what it should be; I work as a partner with the material…
“My Ceramic Sister, Glenda Taylor died today,” writes Linda Ganstrom. “Like a big sister, Glenda always impressed me with her skills, accomplishments, cool demeanor and passions for art, cycling, travel, service and people. I loved her curly hair and the way her eyes lit up when she smiled. I loved her optimism and willingness to find a way to make things work. I loved her desire for excellence. I am so thankful she set me on the path to my first college teaching job at Barton County Community college and trusted me with her students and lab. I’ve loved living with her pots and will continue to remember her through them and our shared service to NCECA and Kansas Artist Craftsmen Association.”
A lifelong Kansan, Glenda was Professor and Chair of Art at Washburn University where she taught courses in ceramics, sculpture and art education. As a Fellow of Washburn University’s Center for Kansas Studies, she recalled, “My first art experiences involved digging clay in my dad’s pasture and trying to make things out of it. I’m still trying to express ideas in clay, and much of the inspiration for my art comes from the land around me.” Glenda’s wall forms, sculptures and vessels drew from the places, people and natural forces that shaped her, drawing inspiration from personal memories, experiences and a sense of the passage of time as expressed through geologic formations. A tornado-like form she often returned to in more recent work indicated her continual awareness of powerful agents of change. Glenda’s attentiveness to nature, and sense of fairness and decency were essential to her work with students, colleagues and the NCECA community that she served with heart and wisdom.
Eleanor Heimbaugh shares, “I had the privilege of being one of Glenda’s undergraduate students in ceramics at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas where she nurtured my love of clay and cycling. Students were Glenda’s number one priority and she was always willing to stop her day in order to help a student in need. When I would thank Glenda for the gifts she had given me through her mentorship she would simply reply, ‘Pass it on’. This was Glenda, the silent hero who gave and expected nothing in return. Glenda touched many people’s lives in a positive way as a dedicated teacher, department chair, athlete, and passionate leader in her community. A memorable phrase she once said to me was ‘Whatever you do with your life, you do it with gusto and passion.’”
My current exploration of content and form is exciting, challenging, and a little frightening. Recently, I have expanded the forms to include more direct reference to flora and the precarious existence of plant life. It is difficult to face the truths revealed through physical representation of decay and decline. Is there anything positive that I can express through this work? Is there beauty to be found in the process of dying? Only through making the work will my questions be answered.
Glenda studied at Bethany College, Emporia State University and Kansas State University where she earned her MFA in ceramics in 1985. National Art Education Association, 1978-1987 She served NCECA as Director at Large from 2005-2008, returned as Secretary from 2010-14, and was also President Elect (1989), President (1990-92), and Board Member (1992-93) of the Kansas Artist Craftsmen Association. Glenda’s perspectives were highly sought after and her broad mindset continually provided a richly informed perspective. Her many active years as member and board member of NCECA made her participation in a think tank meeting in partnership with the Chipstone Foundation immensely impactful. Her immeasurable contributions to NCECA were blended with humility and a deepest respect for others. At the time of her passing, Glenda was serving as a special presidential appointee to NCECA working on development for our 50th year celebrations in Kansas City.
NCECA Past President Patsy Cox writes, “Glenda was a truly humble and altruistic individual who invariably made her way to the background when a spotlight was cast. Content to let others shine, she also found joy in their success, while applauding from the sidelines. The truth of it is that Glenda was an instrumental force in all the accomplishments that happened in her vicinity. Strong, diplomatic, rational and always supportive, Glenda’s was the face of calm when things became intense or overwhelming. One glance at Glenda steadied the boat. She left a serious impact on NCECA and we all feel honored and extremely proud to have been part of the board that got to work with her. She set a high bar in everything she did … her cycling, her teaching, her creative work and countless other activities. Her example will continue to inspire our dedication to something bigger than ourselves.”
Our hearts go out in sorrow to Joe Saia, Glenda’s family, colleagues, friends, students and all those whose lives she touched.