September 24, 2023

Art and Algorithms

UMW junior Corey Taylor shared a bedroom growing up. Not with a sibling, but with his father’s art desk. A hunk of metal bigger than his bed, its surface gleamed with fat tubes of ink, freshly sharpened pencils and thick pads of sketch paper.

It was off-limits.

“I’d get in trouble because he’d have ink and stuff out, and I’d mess around with it and spill it,” Taylor said. “You can’t always blame the dog.”

Corey Taylor Art

Today, his own desk at Eagle Landing looks little like his dad’s did back then. His medium of choice – a laptop – makes no mess at all. With an artist’s brain, Taylor admits, his computer science major can be a challenge, but it’s a fair trade. As UMW boosts his tech-savvy skills, he’s casting his talents across campus. His graphics grace T-shirts for major Mary Washington events, like Homecoming and the Multicultural Fair. But before graduation, he has designs on one more.

“Every day you see people wearing Devil Goat T-shirts,” said Taylor, who’s tried twice to score the exclusively UMW tradition. “I’ve got to get my work on that shirt. It has to happen.”

Born on Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, he lived with his military family in Germany before landing in Woodbridge, Virginia. Along the way, he picked up his father’s passion for animation.

“I grew to love comic books,” said Taylor, who’s hooked on the genre, from the gritty feel of The Walking Dead to iconic Looney Tunes, like Tom and Jerry. “Who isn’t? Bugs Bunny is like the best creation in the universe.”

As a teen, his own strip, The Misadventures of Squiggy, ran in his high school newspaper. In it, a goofy green dinosaur with a pants-less persona provides social satire to the coming-of-age. But Taylor would put his artistic talent on hold.

While he searched for a college – and a practical major – a counselor suggested he visit UMW’s Multicultural Fair. The huge annual event touts diversity and talent.

“I thought, ‘If campus is anything like it is today, this is going to be a good home,’ ” Taylor said.

He joined Mary Washington’s Student Transition Program, which aims to enhance the first-year experience, and soon made an impression.

“He always showed up with enthusiasm,” said Associate Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Success Tim O’Donnell, who taught Taylor’s first UMW class, Public Speaking. “He was wide-eyed, taking it all in and loving every minute of it.”

Taylor launched himself into UMW life. A founding member of The Talons school-spirit group, he’s a RISE peer mentor, James Farmer Multicultural Center volunteer and intramural sports referee.

In class, technology meets talent. With an eye toward graphic design, keyboard buttons are his paintbrushes. Computer codes his colored pencils. PhotoShop his shellac. But that doesn’t mean Taylor can’t reach for an old-fashioned marker now and then. He went through four Sharpies and pulled an all-nighter for an assignment he morphed into a self-portrait.

The California-esque underwater scene, bubbling with monsters and zombies, is composed entirely of a single symbol – “C” – for Corey. Displayed at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center and on UMW promotional materials, the black-and-white piece predicts a promising future.

“I always want to encourage students to find the place where their talents and passions meet,” O’Donnell said. “In Corey, I can see the realization of the dream that I have for all of our students.”