TOYS, THE GATEWAY TO IMAGINATION AND DESIRE TO CREATE - ARTIST AARON PICKENS



Aaron Pickens was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. He attended Toledo School for the Arts between 2001 – 2007. In December of 2011, Aaron completed his BFA in Digital Arts at Bowling Green State University and completed his MFA in painting at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2015. After graduate school, Aaron worked as a digital technical assistant for internationally recognized digital installation artist, Erwin Redl. Aaron currently resides in Greentown, Indiana and is an Assistant Professor of New Media, Art, and Technology at Indiana University Kokomo. Both his plein air paintings and toy still life paintings have been accepted into juried exhibitions throughout the United States, notably the Surreal Salon 10 in Baton Rouge, LA juried by Ron English, and both the 79th and 81st Midyear Juried Show at the Butler Institute for American Art.



Over the past five years, I have focused on a body of work that honors the origin of my creative process; play! Toys facilitated my imagination and desire to create at an early age. The act of play was a catalyst for me to pursue the arts and instilled in me an enthusiasm that has consistently fueled my work to this day.


When designing a new painting for this body of work, I begin to assemble a still life in a child-like manner with objects associated with playtime. Each arrangement is governed by a simple interest in color and form, as well as the narrative or concept I wish to address. Once I am satisfied with the formal arrangement and narrative of each diorama, I begin the process of building the image with paint. I always seek to create immersive paintings that emphasize light and the materiality of the depicted objects. Achieving this objective can either be explored through obsessive rendering, or a more painterly approach. Furthermore, plastic toys present a unique and fascinating technical dilemma, in which the colors of these forms are often just beyond the gamut of archival pigments. Having technical challenges such as this ensures that the process is exciting and ever-evolving.



However, aside from the technical stimulation, the paintings offer the opportunity for my own observances of the world to be subtly expressed. With toys used as symbols in the constructed narratives, I can interweave commentary on topics ranging from environmental concerns, gun rights, native activism, and even art criticism. These contemporary issues are addressed with familiar imagery in a humorous fashion. The lighthearted veneer is utilized to entice the viewer to look beyond the surface and acknowledge the concept that informed each painting.


Recently, the underlying theme for this work has shifted towards developing a self-reflective, sub-series. After the financial stability of my family was momentarily put into peril, I began to recognize how important it was to maintain an illusion of security. Furthermore, this experience unexpectedly called into question my identity which had been intrinsically tied with my profession. The combination of not knowing how to provide for one's family and unsure of my true self left a sense of helplessness and impending doom that needed to be explored with innocent, playful imagery.


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