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

Prop Sculpture for ABC & Disney

body of proof logoI was asked by ABC Television and Disney Studios to do a “forensic” skull-to-face reconstruction sculpture for use as a prop on the television series Body of Proof with actresses Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan. These photos were taken on the set of the show in Los Angeles. This particular episode, called “Occupational Hazards”, was written by Corey Miller (veteran of CSI:, CSI: Miami) and produced by Matthew Gross.

image of facial reconstruction done by Karen T. Taylor for Body of Proof

This is my finished facial reconstruction sculpture on the set on Body of Proof.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

Actresses Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan posing with the reconstructed murder “victim” in dramatic lighting on the set.  How fun!

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction propBefore flying from Texas to Los Angeles, I prepared the reconstruction in several phases to facilitate filming…sort of like they do it for cooking shows! The action for the first stage could be filmed, then the next and so on. This allowed for the simulation of a sculptural process that would actually take far too long to film in real time.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction propActress Jeri Ryan was tasked with “creating” the sculpture and it was my job to coach her so that her hand actions would appear authentic. She was a very attentive student and worked hard to do the procedure “just so”. I was appreciative of her diligence and attention to detail to perfect her craft…and we had a lot of fun together.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

In between takes…and with dozens of people swirling around us…Jeri and I would practice the next step for her to sculpt.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

As we worked, we were under the constant guidance of Producer Matthew Gross…in red.  He’s a real pro and was also a pleasure to work with.

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction propJeri was so good at mimicking the sculptural manipulations I showed her, we were able to use her hands for filming. With some other shows like CSI:, my hands have been intercut with the actress’s hands. Here Jeri is holding my favorite handmade sculpture tool. She got SO excited about sculpting those lips herself and did a great job!

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

Jeri is adding some finishing colorization here.

image from the show body of proof where karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction is used as a propThis is the young actress Jessica Raimondi who portrayed the “murder victim” who became skeletonized as part of the script.  I actually gave input for the casting of Jessica. I wanted to choose an actress whose face had bony structural elements that could be reflected in the reconstruction sculpture, just as it would happen with an actual forensic case. Of course, a real case includes the victim’s actual skull forms. The difficulty here was to make a generic skull turn into Jessica’s bony facial structure, in effect doing a simplified portrait sculpture of her.

Forensic artist Karen T. Taylor on the set of Body of Proof with writer Corey Miller

On the set with writer Corey Miller

Forensic artist Karen T. Taylor on the set of Body of Proof with producer Matthew Gross and actress Jeri Ryan

With producer Matthew Gross and Jeri Ryan on her phone photo-bombing us in the background!

image from the show body of proof showing karen t. taylor's facial reconstruction prop

Actresses Jeri Ryan and Dana Delany with my sculpture on the set.

image of a tweet from jerk ryan to a fan in reference to facial reconstruction

Immediately following the airing of the “Occupational Hazards” episode, Jeri Ryan did a Twitter session. It was fun to get her perspective on the work we did as she responded to the tweets. All in all, the entire experience was really enjoyable for me. The writers, actors, producers and crew were all super.

Portrait Society of America

image of American Portrait Society magazine article about Karen T. Taylor's workI am SO very honored to say that there is an article about my work in the 1st quarter – 2014 edition of The Art of the Portrait, which is the publication of the Portrait Society of America. My heartfelt thanks go to Chris Saper Heirloom & Corporate Portraiture for writing the piece.

I am delighted to see forensic art “crossover” in this way since it encourages greater attention toward the field. Here is a clip of one of my interview responses in that regard:

clip of text from portrait society of america article