Lamar Campbell Le Compte Sr. rarely practiced moderation. From 1913, when he founded the Asheville Postcard Company, to his death in 1977, Le Compte published more than 10 million postcards depicting Clingman’s Dome, Mount Mitchell, and other regional sites, as well as areas further afield.
A visit to his store on Carolina Lane was a treat. Terry Taylor remembers stacks of boxes piled on high, dusty shelves. He also recalls, with a laugh, that Le Compte “chain-smoked constantly” amid the flammable atmosphere.
A long-time Candler resident, Taylor was enamored with postcards early on. He still has one his dad sent to him when he was four or five, and he remembers being “enthralled” with a candy box full of them shared by his grandmother. His own collection numbers cards in many genres, including Christmas, Food, Florida, Motels, Interiors, and antique “Real Photo” postcards, made between 1903 and 1930.
For most of his displayed art, Taylor uses regional vintage postcards and images from elementary-school dictionaries to reinterpret scenes from Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. The result is something akin to a collage, with a hearty dose of irony. In Strange But True, a black-and-white line-drawn cabin sits oddly atop a July 1932 depiction of the Grove Arcade. In Tiny Train on Nolichucky, an illustration of an animated steam engine chugs past a rocky river.
The images show their maker’s affectionate for the Southern mountains, and are meant to be lighthearted, says Taylor. “I don’t get offended when people laugh,” he notes. “I think they’re funny, too.”
That is not to say the artist shies away from addressing recent events, albeit subtly. A Modest Proposal for Pack Square — where a garden of obelisks joins the contested Vance Monument — toys with the controversy surrounding the downtown statue honoring Confederate governor Zebulon Baird Vance. “We cannot erase the past,” says Taylor.
Although postcards might seem anachronistic in times of text and e-mail, Taylor is bent on breathing life into what is now a 150-year-old form of communication. He left his 15-year publishing career at the beginning of the Internet age in part because he didn’t want to “do Facebook … especially the political part.” But sending postcards to friends — which Taylor still does — is a fun way to keep in touch and show where a person has been, just as people did in the early 20th century, “the Facebook and Instagram of the day,” he notes.
About two years ago, Taylor also started purchasing the same postcard en masse to create what he calls “quilts.” Using traditional quilting patterns and a vintage sewing machine, he stitches together a tapestry of repetitive images using the front and back of postcards, including the uncommon 2.5-x 3.5-inch size. The Road That Tunnels features several iterations of a granite-flanked highway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. By flipping the image in different directions, the artist creates a kaleidoscopic, almost intoxicating effect. It’s hard to look away — just like Facebook, only better.
A contemporary motto warns, “The Internet is forever.” But in Taylor’s world, the opposite seems true.
“I’m not so sure about the digital images everyone is sending to one another,” he says. “Eventually, they are just going to disappear into the ether. I do postcards because it’s what I’ve always known.”
Terry Taylor, Candler. Postal Artifacts: New Works by Terry Taylor runs through Friday, May 7, at Upstairs [Artspace] (49 South Trade St., Tryon). For more information, call the gallery at 828-859-2828 or visit upstairsartspace.com. The artist is on Instagram: @terryburgin52.