Portrait – Mrs. Thomas Hart Benton V

Sculptor Karen T. Taylor and Mrs. Thomas Hart Benton V

Barbara and me

The entire process of creating a sculpted portrait of Barbara Benton was a joy for me. She is a lovely woman, inside and out. An Oklahoma native of Choctaw heritage, Barbara spent years as a professional dance instructor. She has devoted five decades of dedicated service to the Order of the Eastern Star. From 2006-2009, she served as Most Worthy Grand Matron. In that role, she travelled many miles and enjoyed meeting people all over the world. During her tenure, she visited 16 countries, 10 Canadian Provinces, all 50 United States and 2 U.S. Possessions. The commission for the portrait, commemorative of her Eastern Star service, came from her husband Tom Benton who is the nephew of famed American artist Thomas Hart Benton. It is easy to see the strong family resemblance between uncle and nephew.

Artist Karen T. Taylor and Thomas Hart Benton V

Tom Benton and me in front of images of his late uncle. The upper center one is the well-known 1922 “Self Portrait with Rita” from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Barbara Benton and Betty Pat. Gatliff

Barbara Benton and Betty Pat. Gatliff

A special aspect of this project was that Barbara and I first became acquainted through our mutual friend, Betty Pat. Gatliff.  Barbara and Betty Pat. were college roommates at the Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha and have remained close ever since. Several issues had to be worked out during the planning stages of the portrait. Barbara has amazing knee-length hair reflective of her Native American heritage. However, she normally wears it in an elaborately twisted style of bun.

Barbara in Native American dress

Barbara in Native American dress




Her husband wanted the sculpture to be done with her hair down while wearing her Native American deer skin costume, headband and jewelry. Barbara felt that more people who knew her would expect to see her characteristic day to day bun hairstyle.  Another consideration was the fact that Barbara is well known for her beautiful presentations of the Lord’s Prayer in Choctaw sign language, which she has performed all over the world.  I suggested a solution that might appeal to everyone.  We decided to create the bust itself with an up-do hairstyle, but also add four panels around the base to show Barbara in Native attire and hairstyle. Each of the four bas relief panels around the base depict one on the postures from Barbara’s rendition of the Lord’s Prayer.

Bas relief panels that surrounded the base showing 4 postures of the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father who art in heaven", "Hallowed be thy name", "Forever and ever", "Amen"

Bas relief panels that surround the base and show 4 postures of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven”, “Hallowed be thy name”, “Forever and ever”, “Amen

Karen measuring Barbara Benton for her sculpted portrait


Barbara travels extensively and has a constantly busy schedule. I was fortunate to have two sittings with her for a total of only a few hours. I was able to supplement those sittings with photographs to complete the sculpted bust.

Karen T. Taylor working on the sculpture of Barbara Benton

Belmont Mansion in Washington, D.C.

Belmont Mansion in Washington, D.C.


The completed bust was cast in bronze and is now placed at the International Headquarters of the Order of the Eastern Star, General Grand Chapter in Washington, D.C. I had the privilege of visiting and staying as a guest at the amazing headquarters building on New Hampshire Avenue NW in the Embassy Row area.  Formerly the Perry Belmont Mansion, the building was constructed between 1906-1909.  I am so delighted that my work is now a part of the estate.

Bronze of Barbara Benton



In the portrait, I opted to give Barbara an expression of contemplative dignity yet tried to hint at the grin that is always very close to the surface. Her calm spiritual nature always shows in her face, as does her sense of fun. I’m told that the expression changes as you walk around the piece…which I hope is true.  The forms of the earrings are meant to echo the shoulder forms and they are curved to better integrate them with the sculpture overall.  I chose to make her hair clip in the form of an eagle feather, a sacred symbol in her tribal heritage.

A particular surprise for me came when this portrait was chosen for an online exhibition by the National Sculpture Society, a first for me. Having this piece displayed in conjunction with artists whose work I have admired for years was an incredible honor for me.

Portrait of Barbara Benton by Karen T. Taylor

Profile views of Barbara Benton and her sculpted portrait

Sketch of Dominick Dunne

Dominick Dunne belonged to a very special club and one where no one wants to be a member. He was the parent of a murdered child. He is best known as a writer for Vanity Fair, friend to celebrities, investigative journalist, and court watcher. He became a recognizable television personality via his commentary during the first O.J. Simpson trial and later on his show Power, Privilege and Justice. But, it is his role as the father of beautiful murdered 22-year-old actress, Dominique Dunne that drove him in the pursuit of justice. His personal outrage developed in the early 80s when his daughter’s killer was given very lenient treatment by a Los Angeles judge, resulting in a sentence of only 6 and a half years for voluntary manslaughter. This injustice propelled Dunne for the remainder of his life as he valiantly campaigned to give crime victims a voice through his work. His research for the fictional 1993 novel A Season in Purgatory centered around the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley in Greenwich, Connecticut. The novel has been credited with being part of the impetus for the retrial and conviction of Kennedy family member Michael Skakel for Moxley’s murder.  I admired Mr. Dunne very much…and he was certainly a “good guy” in my eyes.

Pencil sketch of Dominick Dunne by Karen T. Taylor

Pastel Sketch of Del

Drawing and sculpture are my usual choices for depicting faces. On occasion, I delve into a color medium like pastel, if the subject can best be depicted in that way. This is an informal pastel sketch I did of my friend Del Robertson. I felt that color was needed to reflect the rosiness of his cheeks that says so much about his Scottish heritage.

Photo of Del Robertson as a young police officer

Photo of Del as a young police officer

Del served for many years as a police officer in the UK and certainly qualifies as a “good guy” in my book. It was a joy for me to personally deliver the drawing to his precious Scottish mother, Betty, on her 80th birthday. She was quite “chuffed” as Del would say.

Betty Robertson with the sketch of her boy Del

Betty Robertson with the sketch of her boy Del







Pastel portrait of Del