Painting with Passion
In her poem Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou wrote:
"It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman Phenomenally.
After meeting local muralist Darlene Taylor, there is no better way to describe her than as a "phenomenal woman." Before meeting Darlene, you meet her smile. It is big and contagious, much like her personality. A Dallas/Fort Worth native, Darlene has called Texarkana home for 13 years. Darlene has completed over 160 murals throughout five states, at least ten of which are in the Texarkana area. "I did not go into this to be a professional muralist," Darlene said. "I was working at Julies Deli full-time, enjoying my life."
Darlene's life drastically changed after her husband passed away. She fell into what she called a "funk," as many people do. One year after her husband's passing, Darlene noticed the side of her house was faded, and she did not have enough money to paint the entire house. Luckily, her stepdaughter worked at Lowe's in the paint department, and she was able to collect paint. Therefore, an array of paint colors was at Darlene's fingertips. Darlene recalled thinking, "I'll just take this paint and paint something happy on the side of the house." The rest was history.
After painting "something happy" on the side of her house, Darlene was quickly noticed. Darlene said, "the next thing you know, I am painting something else for someone else, and so on." The mural or painting that gained a large amount of attention was the "Welcome to DeQueen" sign she painted for the Minorities Affairs Council. Still working full-time at Julie's Deli, Darlene painted murals in her spare time. Laughing, she shared, "I was starting to meet myself coming and going." Darlene decided to leave Julie's Deli to pursue painting full-time. Julie Furlow, the owner of Julie's Deli, told her, "Go! Get out! Go be somebody!” Darlene said, "So I did! I quit. On January 1, 2021, I left Julie's."
Now a full-time muralist and artist, Darlene recently finished working on a contract piece for Kinetic's "Proud to be from Here" mural in downtown Texarkana. After three months, the possibility of a new mural is an option.
Darlene loves people, and people love her. She shared, "I literally cannot go into Walmart without someone stopping me every five feet saying, 'You're that lady that paints?!' I love it. People see me in my paint-covered clothes and big trademark hat and are inspired by what I do. So I continue to do what I do to be inspiring!"
Growing up, Darlene's mother always encouraged her to learn new skills, take an interest in new hobbies, and develop them. She especially reminded Darlene of this advice every year when celebrating Darlene's birthday. Darlene's mother was a graphic designer but was passionate about many things. "She had many degrees and was continuously graduating with another, it seemed," Darlene said. Darlene's mother was not only her biggest cheerleader but also her biggest inspiration growing up. Now, Darlene says friends like Jes Wiener and Joseph Raymond inspire her. "In a community the size of Texarkana's, originality can sometimes seem oversaturated. Things that you think are original to you may be someone else's bread and butter. That said, there's enough pie for everyone," Darlene said. "You really just have to figure out what your talent is, your passion, and make it unique! Do something a little extra to make it different and stand out!
A truly phenomenal woman, Darlene uses her positivity to inspire others through her work. Famous American painter Hans Hofmann once said, "Every art expression is rooted fundamentally in the personality and temperament of the artist." Darlene may be known as a "muralist," but she is truly an artist in every version of the definition. Her personality radiates through her murals. Each original and vastly different from the last, they leave you excited to see the next. However, Darlene's story might be the most beautiful piece of work.