Island painter Kara Taylor is back at her Chilmark gallery after another productive off-season in South Africa, her second home and a continuing source of inspiration for her work.

But while Ms. Taylor would normally have spent the winter painting in the Cape Town studio complex she shares with a community of other tenant artists, last year saw her isolated and working from a rented apartment.

“We were in level five lockdown. The borders were closed. You couldn’t go out of the house, except for groceries. I couldn’t even go to the studio,” she told the Gazette Tuesday, as she prepared to hang her first exhibition of the summer.

Open now, with a reception Sunday at 5 p.m., the new show is titled Shielded, referring to the talismanic nature of the ornamented paintings and color-field encaustics Ms. Taylor created in her lockdown solitude.

“They’re basically mystical diagrams,” she said of a series of multi-hued, geometric abstracts traced in paint and wax. “The diamond shape is in them all.”

Much of Ms. Taylor's recent work was created in South Africa. — Maria Thibodeau

A bold palette of dark shades, with the occasional bright moment, expresses the artist’s frame of mind as she worked through the long pandemic winter.

“I think I was trying to transcend myself,” she said. “We were in a dark time.”

Most of these color-field works are smaller than Ms. Taylor’s other paintings, with the exception of one large, pulsating piece she calls Probability — short, she said, for The Probability of Green.

Filled with apertures — windows? doors? — in nearly every other color, the work summons the artist’s feelings about a time and place in which people were separated and confined, as if in boxes, by pandemic restrictions. Yet here and there, a flash of green offers hope.

Other works in Shielded mix two- and three-dimensional elements to create totems of protection, with layers including photographed dried flowers from her Island garden and gold-leafed lace and lead.

One piece, already sold, incorporates pages from a Columbia University sociology dissertation the artist found at a dump.

“I like to work with transparent layers,” said Ms. Taylor, who also adds swaths of fabric into some of her works.

The current exhibition will be fol lowed by a three-way show of portraits opening August 22. Titled People You Know and People you Don’t Know, the exhibition includes works by Brooke Adams and Robert Davies along with Ms. Taylor’s portraits of such complex, influential women as Jane Goodall, Marie Colvin, Benazir Bhutto and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“I’m painting my mentors and people of intrigue,” she said. “These are some of my heroines.”

Originally known for her landscape paintings, Ms. Taylor brings to these portraits a sense of deep interest and appreciation for the complexity of their subjects. For her tribute to war correspondent Marie Colvin, killed in action in Syria nine years ago, Ms. Taylor painted the one-eyed reporter in the style of the famous 1980s National Geographic cover photo of young Afghan refugee Sharbat Gula. Gazing intently from within her hood, black eye patch in place, Ms. Colvin’s single green eye transfixes the viewer.

“I actually knew Marie. She was amazing; a very intense woman,” Ms. Taylor said. The reporter had owned one of her paintings, she added.

Ms. Taylor chose to paint Ms. Bhutto, the former Pakistan prime minister and party leader assassinated in 2007, both despite and because of the politician’s controversial career.

“Was she really who she said she was?” Ms. Taylor asked.

The background of each portrait is adorned with painted blossoms, chosen after Ms. Taylor read a book on the symbolic language of flowers. Magnolias, signifying dignity and perseverance, accompany a dual portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Florida judge L. Robin Rosenberg, a Chilmark summer resident and friend of Ms. Taylor’s. Its title: Passing the Torch.

Her favorite among all the portraits she has painted, Ms. Taylor said, is the one of Ms. Goodall, the primatologist and world authority on chimpanzees.

“I feel like I really captured (her),” Ms. Taylor said, meeting her subject’s painted gaze, which seems to radiate a gentle wisdom.

“It gives me goosebumps,” Ms. Taylor added.

While Ms. Taylor’s summer shows are filled with new pieces both abstract and representational, some of her most important recent work remains in the southern hemisphere, at the Everard Read gallery in South Africa.

Securing representation at the country’s oldest commercial art gallery was the culmination of a two-year project that saw Ms. Taylor defying the risks of pandemic travel to return to South Africa last fall.

“I went back with the intention of making them a body of work,” she said. “Everyone thought I was nuts to go back there, with the third variant and everything, (but) I was totally dedicated to making some work to show them.”

The pieces at Everard Read are further evolutions of the themes Ms. Taylor explored in work shown at her Chilmark gallery last season, in which humans and the natural world are shown as seeking balance with one another.

“My work is really about the tenuous relationship of change,” she said. “Race and environment — they’re … both really fragile conversations.”

Her work continues to evolve, Ms. Taylor said, as she engages with both the human and natural worlds.

“Artists, we have a passion to convey what we feel. That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “Whether the pieces sell or not is secondary.”

The Kara Taylor gallery is located at 24 South Road, Chilmark.