Flowers have always meant something to Kara Taylor. As a young girl, one of the first drawings she remembers doing is of daffodils in her garden. Through high school and college she worked as a gardener, has created floral arrangements and now keeps sprawling perennial gardens at her West Tisbury home.

As she neared 40, an age she found to be a significant marker in society, she decided to document her 40 years with 40 flowers. The exhibit, 40 Flowers, opens with a reception on Sunday, July 24, at 5 p.m. at the Kara Taylor Gallery in Chilmark.

The idea was born from a book, The Language of Flowers, and the Victorian idea that certain flowers conveyed a certain meaning. It also came from tragedy. Two years ago, Ms. Taylor’s father died unexpectedly. Recently, as she emerged from the grief and looked toward the future, she felt she was flowering.

The artist at work in her Chilmark studio and gallery. — Jeanna Shepard

In October, Ms. Taylor began creating her own flowers, building them out of vintage lace, carved wood, oil and gold leaf. Before this series, she had been focused on making pillows and decided she wanted to include textiles in her painting. Marrying the idea of meaning behind floral arrangements and including textiles in paintings, she created bouquets of mixed media flowers. This led her to one flower for each year. Though each flower represents a year, the artist equates them to no particular event. Instead, they echo emotions from particular years as she hears them now.

A tangle of flowers, moving from one board to the next illustrates her teenage years, a whirl of confusion as she tried to find out who she was. A group of darker flowers navigates her early 20s when she lacked confidence and yet was also fearless.

As she grew older, she became more confident in her own skin and so do the flowers, taking on a lighter hue, standing taller and more resolute.

The flowers tell a linear story, but they will be experienced all at once, displayed around one of the rooms in her gallery.

“I wanted it to feel like you’re in a room surrounded by flowers,” Ms. Taylor said. The pieces are slightly taller than she is herself, and she purposefully anthropomorphized them so people could engage with them. “They are like another person . . . like as if a flower could be a being,” she said.

As with many of her works, Ms. Taylor added gold leaf which illuminates a painting, giving it extra life.

“It changes as you walk around it,” she said. “It’s not flat, it’s got depth.”

The flowers are graphically styled, standing boldly against plain painted backgrounds, almost as if mounted.

“It’s a way to visualize something that is intangible,” she said. “Emotions are intangible and it’s a way to make them have more clarity when you externalize them. Even tactile, I wanted them to feel experiential. You want to touch them.”

Born and raised on the Island, Ms. Taylor always felt as if the mainland was a secret world. She’s visited it, stayed in it, but always returned to the Vineyard.

“These flowers feel like they have secrets,” she said. They are awkward, angry, elegant, seductive. Art is often a reflection of where the artist is in their life, Ms. Taylor said. In the past she’s done stormy series when she has felt amid a storm. Forty Flowers reflects not just the moment, but the journey. It is a massive undertaking, but Ms. Taylor felt the series was important for her to process her identity.

Though each flower is a creation of her own mind, Ms. Taylor’s years of gardening guided her understanding of how things grow. And they all grow imperfectly, which only draws her to them more.

“There is always an imperfection to something,” she said. “Even if it appears beautiful.”

The Kara Taylor gallery is located at 24 South Road in Chilmark. The opening reception for 40 Flowers is from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit