Thoss W. Taylor, American. Conceptual Artist, b.1941-

aka Tom Taylor, social commentary art / graphic wildlife artist

aka The Poet Spiel, satire noire, social commentary painter, poet/writer 

THOSS TAYLOR PHOTO from the original negative  ©1970 CBROWN

“Consider Your Confine”

by Thoss W. Taylor.”

A conceptual art exhibition created in an edition of 100.

Exhibited in more than 20 museums, universities and galleries, coast-to-coast in the U.S.A. and including Nova Scotia.

Launched May 2, 1971, at The Eugenia Butler Gallery, 615 La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles CA.

If you own or your institution possesses an edition of “Consider Your Confine” please contact us.
Please state how you obtained it, what edition/number it is, what condition it is in and if all 100 pieces remain in the collection.
Tracking the provenance of Taylor’s “Consider Your Confine” is our interest. 

Thoss Icon



Taylor’s simplistic American home icon–a confine without windows, without doors.

Also known as “The Confine Show” and “Considerations of the Confines of Thoss W. Taylor,” this body of conceptual work consists of 100 8”x10” photographic or offset reproductions, signed and numbered by the artist.  69 of these pieces are co-signed collaborations — for example::  the artist working with his companion, his doctor, the director of a major L.A. art museum, a high fashion model, a stage actor, his maternal grandmother, an entomology illustrator, a controversial screenwriter and a major etiquette guru.
“Round Peg, Square Hole” The artist and companion Bob Arnett, collaboration,
a 1970 gay couple in the confines of a culture where it is illegal to be gay — like the misfit of a round peg in a square hole.
The combined 100 pieces are known as a Total Confine.  100 of each of the Total Confines are produced for distribution, exhibition, sale (or eventual pre-destined destruction).  Total number of individual Confine pieces signed and/or co-signed by artist is 10,000.  The earliest pieces were completed in November of 1969 when the Confine format was established.
 A confine collaboration with the artist’s father–this rare ink drawing by Amos Taylor. #30/100
Strictly detailed “Confines” are defined by the artist within the collection: various options for display, cost accelerations and methods and instructions for destruction of pieces/collections remaining in the possession of the artist and or his representative after May 2, 1972.

 The common purpose of each piece is to visually define the concept of “Confine.”  Taylor says: “I became intrigued with the limitations of time and space, the personal confines of the individual and those artifacts of everyday life which define them. The word became all inclusive as I progressed and by the time I reached 100 different approaches to the word ‘confine’ it seemed everything was a confine—my body, my community, it includes everything.”

He simplified his statement as

Confine: Protect, Restrict, Identify.”

The fine print of the confines defined within the Confine Collection.

Taylor illustrates some of his Confine pieces with his simplistic American home “icon,” (shown above), developed by him during the late 60s.

The image has re-surfaced in his work as a poet under the name The Poet Spiel.  And in his art, as in this 2008 Spiel painting “without windows without doors without a mouth to speak.”
“without windows without doors without a mouth to speak”     48″ x 38″    acrylic on masonite 
© 2008 The Poet Spiel

The icon was derived from an early 1960s painting of the first house he occupied when he established his own residence.  It represents a prototypical, American, white, clapboard siding house, with a peaked roof.  The motif of clapboard siding has fascinated Taylor for decades.

The drawing below was included in his 1969 one-man show of minimalist drawings at the venerable Rex Evans Gallery in Los Angeles.  About his Rex Evans Exhibit, Henry J. Seldis, art critic for The Los Angeles Times, wrote:

“Intricate pencil compositions by Thoss W. Taylor have a frugal quality to both their thought and form. The delicacy of touch and balance projected by the intriguing drawings does not detract from the seriousness, the spirituality, of this enormously gifted artist’s speculations. So light is his touch that some of the most fragile arrangements seem to have been drawn by an invisible hand.”

Taylor’s icon has no windows, no doors—a confine of certainty.  Throughout the years of its development, for him, it evoked a mixed bag: 1.  A privacy retreat. 2.  A landing for longing–   wistful recall of his youth when he dreamed of escape to a place where he would be free. 3.  A prison with no way out.

Even with a blue sky, green grass and a yellow sun,

without windows or doors

to see or feel them,

his icon reflects the Confine

he so hoped to bust loose with the Confine collection.

The way he imagines it on the below Confine page, it becomes a vehicle for the phrase:

supposetherewasinfact only ONE cOnfiNE
anditincluded everyone and everything and
ALL thingseventhestuffyouthinkyoudontlike
anddontknow about what if
now you’re on the home team and now who do you

ROOT for

Los Angeles Conceptual Art dealer Eugenia Butler represented Taylor during  conception and production of the Confines collection.  Butler’s La Cienega Blvd. gallery was ripe with Concept Artists and Conceptual Art was hot in L.A. in the late 60s and into the 70s. The Confine Show fit Taylor’s heady needs while he was concurrently employed as a high-ticket Beverly Hills needlepoint designer for Jebba Inc. 

But 1971 also was a “drop out” year for him.

Just as The Confine Show began to appear nation-wide in multiple major art venues, Taylor and his companion traded his silver Porsche for a 1941 Jeep and they headed for the mountains of far northern California with a “stony” dream of escaping their confines. In May of 1972, from his mountain retreat, the artist instructed his colleague Cathy Brown to follow through with his precisely described destruction event–she buried all remaining Confine materials under the front lawn of her Bronson Avenue Los Angeles home. 

A heady collaboration with sculptor Lorinda Roland. #30/100.
“Basic motivating confine of any living creature. This is a flat picture of a 3 dimensential (sic) sphere.  The dot is 3 dimensional too. … Ancient Chinese symbol for 1st person singular…two weapons in opposition or image connected to mirrored image. …”
“a consideration of the possibility of the misrepresentation of a confine”  Bob Arnett / Thoss Taylor #30/100
So characteristic of the spirit of the late 60s, this piece by Bob Arnett and Thoss Taylor, #8/100, attempts to break cliched ways of common thinking.

Exhibits List

In alphabetic order, below, are museums, universities and galleries where “Consider Your Confine” is known to have been exhibited in its entirety—1971-2015. Edition number represents The Total Confine provided to each institution for exhibition.

(If you are aware of any “Consider Your Confine” exhibition not listed here, or if you are aware of the whereabouts of any of the Total Confines or if you are able to identify errors in the information provided here, please contact spielspeak (at)

Bradford Junior College, Bradford MA, 1971, May 3-May 22. Edition #4 of 100. Doug Huebler curator?

Brand Library Art Center, Glendale, CA 1971, May 6-30. Edition #18 of 100. Gallery Director, Robert Smith. No reference to Confines on file in 1982 inquiry.

California Institute of the Arts, Burbank, CA 1971, May 2-May 31. Edition #12 of 100. Doug Huebler curator?

Center for Idea Art, Denver CO 1989, Nov. 11-Dec 4. Probably Edition #30. Large silkscreen show poster created by Paul Schroader with focus on The Hitler Piece, “sky/grass” hand-painted by Taylor, acrylic. 100 pieces exhibited at eye level around the gallery, each piece beneath glass.

Charles Cowles, New York City, NY 1971, Private showing, 59 Wooster Street, NYC Edition #69 Retained in private collection.

Colorado State University-Pueblo, Nov. 5, 2012-Jan, 18, 2013, CSUP Arts & Music Bldg. Pueblo CO “VOICES” The most comprehensive collection of this artist’s work ever assembled for exhibition

Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C. 1973. April 30. Galleries 6-9. Edition #99 of 100. Not exhibited in 1971 as indicated on original invitation. No available record of length of exhibition. Accessioned into permanent collection–Accession #1972.26.1-100, Titled as “A Total Confine.” Walter Hopps, Director.

The Eugenia Butler Gallery, Los Angeles CA 1971. May 2-31. Edition #50. National exhibitions of “Consider Your Confine” launched by Taylor’s representative, Eugenia Butler.  The 100 pieces of this Total Confine are mounted in a grid in the display window of the gallery to be viewed night and day by La Cienega Blvd passersby. This is the final exhibition by the late Eugenia Butler senior, who played a critical role in the initial support of some of southern California’s most important artists of this period, including: John Baldessari, George Brecht, Doug Hoebler, Edward Kienholz, Joseph Kosuth, Richard Jackson, Dieter Rot and Lawrence Weiner. It was the indomitable spirit of Eugenia Butler that paved the way for “Consider Your Confines” to be exhibited, concurrently, coast-to-coast, in 16 venues in ’71.

Hunter College, New York City, NY 1971, May 2-31. Edition #19. “Records have been lost,” May 1982 quote from Gallery Assistant. Holds no records of shows before 1977.

Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles, CA 1971, May 2-31. Edition #14 of 100

The Landmark Gallery, Longmont, CO 1981. Probably Edition #30.

Newport Harbor Art Museum, Balboa, CA 1971, April 28-May 31. Edition # 56. Exhibited in small room normally used as a Sales and Rental Gallery.  NHAM did not collect art at the time so Director Thomas H. Garver accepted The Total Confine in artist’s custom Lucite box with interior mirrored back and self-bracketed for hanging, as a gift from Taylor representative, Eugenia Butler.

Nova Scotia College of Art, Halifax, Nova Scotia 1971, May 2-13, Edition #17. Mezzanine Gallery. Archived in Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Library: #Arch N6537 T39 T6. Gallery Director, Allan MacKay.

Park-Bernet/ Houston Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston TX 1971, May 7-May 25. Probably edition #75. Listed in possession of Sebastion Adler who may have been art director at HMCA at that time. Records were lost in a flood.

Pioneer Museum, Longmont, CO 1971, May 16-May 31. Edition #30. (see footnotes *5) Gifted to artist’s Colorado hometown by art dealer Eugenia Butler.

Pirate / A Contemporary Art Oasis, Denver CO 1987. Exhibited within Taylor solo exhibition,“Eating the Dream.” Probably Edition #30. Believed to be exhibited in grid on cardboard backing.

PST / Perpetual Conceptual: Echoes of Eugenia Butler, West Hollywood, CA. 2012. Represented by Corazon del Sol, #51/100 exhibited in West Hollywood City Hall,  as a minor fragment of the multi-museum, multi-gallery, multi-space exhibitions, united by The Getty Research Institute, portraying the importance of art produced in Los Angeles between 1945-1980.

Reese Palley Gallery, San Francisco, CA. 1971, May 11-June 5. Edition # 2. Reviewed as “too cerebral.” Carol Linsley, Curator / Brenda Richardson, Assistant Curator. 

Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 1971, May 2-May 31. Edition # 21.

San Juan Gallery @ PCC, Pueblo CO. 2015, March 4- April 8. Edition #30 45 year anniversary of the conception of this collection of 100 pieces.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA 1971, May 2-May 31. Edition #55 Exhibited in conceptual format as scrapbook on coffee table.

University of California / Davis, CA 1971 May 2-May 31. Edition #7?

University of California / San Diego, CA 1971. # not known.

University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 1983, –Aug. 28. The Michener Library Exhibited lying flat in glass display cases within a greater Taylor retrospective “The Graphic Adventures of Tom Taylor.” Probably Edition #30.

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT 1971, May 4-June 15 in Avery Court. Edition #3. Peter Marlow, Chief Curator. Total Confine was not retained as Museum was not yet creating a permanent collection.

Confine classifications / Collaborations / Prices/ Titles #30/100
Taylor’s 12/1970 personal letter to Eugenia Butler expressing his mental flip-flops during the creation of Consider Your Confines
Hiroshima page may have been ripped from “LOOK” magazine in about 1970. Hi-lighted Letters to the Editor quotes:
“Were it not for the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would not be alive today. …  It is a pity that a thousand atomic bombs couldn’t have been dropped on Japan in 1945.” Ward Gardner, Pine, CO. … “I had rather fight anything, and most important, Communism, there (which is anywhere) than from my living room window.” E. Roy Bassett, Bayard, N.M. …

In a 2011 consideration of his Confines collection, Taylor finds the work to be an apt reflection of the time in which it was created. He is thrown back to the sort of quasi-intellectualism when hippies wandered about spouting what they believed to be wise thoughts. And some of that language finds its way into his own definitions of Confines. He finds his intentionally childlike drawings direct and refreshing and their Confine messages easy to grasp, like his “Hammer and Pitcher” page below. 

“Hammer and Pitcher” The possibility that one Confine simply becomes another? Thoss Taylor #30/100 As in, Out of the frying pan into the fire.
Concept Artist, Paul Cotton, a close associate of Eugenia Butler,  invents his own language. #30/100 pretends to include the actual signature of Maurice Tuchman.  Tuchman was Senior Curator for The Los Angeles County Museum of Art for 30 years and is a supporter of outsider art in Los Angeles.  He did, in fact, sign a different Cotton piece and he initialed a piece in this collection which reads: “The stand is not just a resting place…”  Throughout Cotton’s edition of his Eyewitness piece, he takes the liberty to step outside his own Confine, set up with the solid line where we see Tuchman’s signature here.  And in other editions, he uses no signature at all or the signature of others who, in his words  “…are Beings with whom I have Eye-Dentified as Members of the Meating in the instant-all-at–onceness…”

As for more sophisticated pieces by a few of his collaborators, Taylor finds them exquisite and challenging — something to get his teeth into. Further, he finds a few of the pieces a bit air-headed—yet that is exactly how he recalls those days of marijuana highs—thus an accurate reflection of the times. But he’s also hit square between the eyes as he recalls WHY some issues addressed in this collection may now seem like fluff. In ’69, when he commissioned his first Confine photostat and America was reveling in the ease of reproducing large quantities of documents on a Xerox machine, old social barriers were being shattered by the make-love-not-war generation — and now those issues are little more than hand-me-downs which seem like givens in our everyday lives.

T-Bone Burnett / Thoss W. Taylor #30/100

T-Bone Burnett is a noted, many times awarded, singer/songwriter, music producer.  The make-love-not-war generation was notable for its lack of care about cleanliness. What seemed like monumental breakthroughs in the mores of American culture are now day-to-day living in a computer-educated society with new confines.  Instant access to information beyond one’s imagination, though usually unedited and from unreliable sources, becomes a chaotic confine of overload. And the temptation of instantaneous recognition and fame by distribution of detail about one’s self, traveling throughout the universe to unidentified destinations, with little consideration that it cannot be erased, has become a vast Confine with invisible walls. But certain of the Confine issues addressed by Taylor, war, racial and religious infighting and poverty, remain as universals in art and these favor no decade. So in the end, his Confine Show may be an accurate statement, as Taylor believes art should become an historical document, for better or for worse, and that an alert artist should mark the culture and times in which he works.

Below, N. Y. Post Journalist Dorothy Thompson quoting Adolf Hitler, 1944: “Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.” The #30/100 page of The Total Confine was badly damaged on its removal from exhibit in the artist’s hometown of Longmont, CO where he’d been a restless and creative child perceiving “the sky as green and pastures as blue.” (see footnotes *5)

Four decades after Consider Your Confine was completed, the artist acknowledges the cooperation of three notable individuals of that period, each of them taking time out to contribute 100 signatures to their Confines concepts: Amy Vanderbilt, America’s foremost authority on proper etiquette, obliged when Taylor invited her to participate. Her piece confronts the silly dilemma of what to do with the confine of the paper from a packet of sugar when it is empty. She replies: Leave it on the table. (Vanderbilt jumped to her death in 1974.) SuZanne Noguchi Swain, a Doubleday book illustrator, renowned for meticulous and accurate drawings of bugs. Swain befriended Taylor when he did the rounds of NYC publishers in the early 60s with his portfolio, hoping to land a deal as a children’s book illustrator. No such deal for Taylor. And he found the west coast more to his liking when he later grounded himself in Hollywood.

Suzanne NOGUCHI SWAIN 30/100.

“Animals and plants resemble each other most in lower forms.

The one-celled plant, Bacterium, was at one time classed as an animal

and scientists still disagree as to which Kingdom the slime mold belongs.”

Dalton Trumbo, controversial, prolific and much sought after screenwriter, offered Taylor his choice from random thoughts he’d scribbled on scraps of paper and stashed in shoe-boxes.

Taylor considers this one of the most definitive pieces in the Confines collection:  “crucifixion failed—he arose.”  Trumbo became patron/artcollector to Taylor the first year the artist lived and worked in Los Angeles.  Trumbo died of a heart attack in 1976.

Thoss Taylor was and is today a thoughtful artist who makes art about the confines of the human condition— most commonly in its darker state. Since 2000, Taylor has also worked under the name, The Poet Spiel. He is an internationally published independent press poet and writer and commonly signs his visual art under the name Spiel. (see page 2 of this site) He also has been widely published as the graphic wildlife artist Tom Taylor. (see page 3 of this site)

Trivia / history about the artist, the Confine collections and individual pieces.


1. Most of the Confines illustrations on this site are scanned from #30 Total Confine. 2. Artist and or collaborator received #1 of each edition. 3. “Letters to the Editor” at Life Magazine received #16 at the request of artist. No response from Life is known. 4. #8/100. Gifted to Taylor by Cathy Brown 5. #30/100. Gifted to artist’s hometown of Longmont Colorado by Eugenia Butler at Taylor’s request. It was exhibited in the Pioneer Museum to celebrate his May 15 birthday in Longmont. The Museum censored two collaborated pieces, considering them inappropriate for public display: Cathy Brown’s child pissing photo and Bill Lobo’s sterile nude photos of the artist. When the collection was disassembled, several pieces were damaged as tape applied to the backs was ripped away. Not fully recognizing the value of the Total Confine as art, the Museum forfeited it to private Landmark Gallery owner, Kathy Sherman. Sherman gifted it back to Taylor upon his return to Colorado after living and working as a wildlife artist in Zambia. 6. #80/100. Gift of the artist to former patron and Confine collaborator, Dalton Trumbo. 7. #83/100. A gift to The Denver Art Museum by Mr. and Mrs. John Tensfeldt. Accepted for museum collection by Director Richard Teitz and Curator Dianne Vanderlip. DAM Catalog No. TL-8262. 1-.100. Dated December 29, 1986. 8. #100/100. Personal issue retained by Thoss W. Taylor for private collection. It is known to have been destroyed by Taylor after he “dropped out” of the Hollywood scene and moved to the woods of far Northern California. 9. Excerpted from July 1983 Loveland Daily Reporter article, “Taylor career takes shape around symbol,” by Phyllis Walbye.

            “Being young in California in the 60’s meant breaking down rules to see what would happen. You jumped off just to see where you would land…especially if you were an artist. It was the time of “happenings,” of minimalism and of conceptual art,” he (Taylor) said. “I had always had a strongly conceptual mind and the new conceptual art was opening up all kinds of media. It was art of the mind and it could be done any way. There  was something in the air during that time that I wanted to define. I was shooting for a presentation about life the way I saw it,” he continued. … During the days his art was minimalist in style, (two solo exhibits of minimalist drawings at the venerable Rex Evans Gallery, also located on La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles) he began to be haunted by a simple symbol – an odd-shaped little house that seemed to represent both his past and his present. Once he defined the symbol as a confine, he thought, “I am confined. But by what?” Taylor’s list of “what?” blossomed into a definitive and significant statement of the human condition as seen by himself and by those he knew would be articulate verbally and visually. Many were artists, writers and performers. …   “When I began the ‘Confines’ show I wanted to let others into my world to question and argue, compromise and make a piece of art between us. Of course compromise was a confine in itself. The format probably came out of my (recent) minimalist approach to art and my passion for reducing things to their most simple form. In the beginning I guess I was just playing with the concept and early pieces now look shallow… The first piece was my chest X-ray, suggesting the first confine is the body even when you can’t see it. The first pieces…were tight and clean but the farther I went the more I realized a definition of life cannot be tight and clean. I relaxed more and became even childlike in simplifying the drawings,…”   “For many of the (collaborators) the experience of recognizing their confine was a little like coming out of prison. The question I kept asking them and myself was ‘Can you see beyond what you think you are?’ Sometimes as I thought about the work I felt it was a quasi-intellectual drama. Definition seemed so futile. A lot of it was making fun of all the emerging scientific approaches for human ‘beingness.’ It was life and death and tongue in cheek all at the same time,”…  “Well into the two years of work on it I was no longer driven to make it an ‘achievement’ anymore but it still seemed important to me that we were at least trying – even if we ended with a question that could not be answered,…”

Loveland Daily Reporter by Phyllis Walbye

10. A five page website contains substantial visual and verbal information about the long and diverse career of

Thoss W. Taylor

aka Tom Taylor

  aka The Poet Spiel

Please note: permission to use Spiel/Taylor work in any form must first be obtained by specific request, per item, per usage.