In the mid-1980s I was in foster care, ward of NYC, in Friendly Home for Girls. I was also a punk in love with a skinhead couple.
Claire made art to keep the couple afloat, I would skip class to hang in their SRO, infested with free-range waterbugs. We’d capture them with cups, and then they were unceremoniously dipped in lacquer and made into jewelry that sold quickly at CBGB’s matinee Hardcore shows.
Claire had no money, which is often the prerequisite for entrance into the NYC art scene, but gatekeepers recognized her brilliance. Her Saints and Angels show at the Jim Diaz Gallery was legend: Upstairs, miniature oil angels decorated the cloud-painted walls, while down steep grated steps into a stone basement hung the chilling miniature portraits of saints with their adorned handmade coffin-like frames. I was taken with Saint Lucy and her mounted frame of eyeballs, which she was said to have plucked out herself.
After I left foster care, I followed where Claire had relocated, to San Francisco. She would show me her latest canvas and listen to my stories. Laura, I don’t know how you do it, she told me after I read to her.
And from an artist like Claire, that was permission enough to keep going.
In 1997, Claire shared that she was with one Edward Gladding Taylor II, whom folks called Glad. We spoke over the phone as I nursed my newborn. I congratulated Glad, his cowboy gruff tone had turns of phrase which perked my writer’s ear. And his absolute dedication to Claire, his love of my dear friend, was palpable. In my altered state of postpartum sleep-deprived nursing delirium, his name swirled with all the adventures of off the map surreal underground Brooklyn and New York City, which I’d had with Claire and others.
I started capturing with words this waking dream, unspooling like a film. I asked Claire, Hey can I use your Glad’s name for this thing I am writing? Knock yerself out, she laughed, giving me her blessing.
And thus was born Glading Grateful ETC…, the pimp protector of the Lot Lizards of Doves Diner, in what became the novel SARAH.
My fictional Glad very much departed from Glad, Claire’s future husband, starting with the one-D spelling of his name — like a lot of my artistic creations, he took on an independent literary life. After the book SARAH was born into the world, I was thrilled when folks took up Glad as their own. Halloween, folks would dress up as Glad. I was sent fan fiction expounding on further adventures of Glading Grateful ETC… and his exalted crew of raccoon penis bone-wearing boy-girl lot lizards. Stories of Glad, benefactor of the Epicurean chef who prepared the Appalachian-fusion cuisine of the mythical truck-stop gourmet Doves Diner, inspired menus to be created from the dishes described in the book. There was an explosion of creativity, and it was its own glorious phenomenon.
The novel SARAH came out before there was a language or terminology to express gender variance. I created what I had dreamt, a Shangri-La where gender-variant folks were exalted and safe. Glad was their defender, dangerous to those who messed with his boy-girls. Glad also tried to keep a child safe, but when the world is upside down, even a mythical anti-hero can’t save you.
The wonderful drummer of the Counting Crows, Ben Mize, even named his new band GLADING GRATEFUL ETC…
A few years back, I finally had the honor to meet Glad in person in North Carolina and thank him for letting me run rampant with his name. My Glad is fiercely loyal and will do what needs to be done to protect those under his care — the same could be said about the real Glad.
Edward Gladding Taylor II, known to friends and family as Glad, died July 30, 2022 after almost 23 years of marriage, with Claire by his side, holding his hand. It was also reported that a number of jackalopes through the Blue Ridge Mountains near where he passed were said to offer forth fountains of firewater moonshine the color of the tobacco Glad was particularly partial to.
Glad was not able to see my Saints & Angels show, as we met almost 10 years after the exhibit ended. Once married, I continued to work on my art. We lived north of Sacramento, not far from the American River, and I spent many days trying to capture its powerful beauty and surrounding vegetation through plein air painting. This interest in painting directly from nature followed me to North Carolina, where we moved in our sixth year of marriage. While landscapes became my main focus, I did not give up my interest in creating paintings of a symbolic nature. Although Glad did not always understand my art, he supported and encouraged me fully in its creation and embraced its importance in my life.
I have spent a majority of my evenings over the past several years working at my drawing table on a painting or linocut for our yearly Christmas card, in the comfortable knowledge that Glad was just a few feet away in another room. I have not yet been able to find the courage to sit at that table since his death, but I do know that eventually I will, and that the artwork created at it will be infused with all of the deepest feelings I have for Glad.
I will miss my true love to the end of my days. He will forever remain in my heart, and perhaps in the hearts of those who have read Laura’s SARAH.
– Claire DeLong Taylor
Find Claire DeLong Taylor’s art here: https://www.clairedelongtaylor.com/