Toledo artist Aaron Pickens brings “Toy Tableaux” to the Flora Kirsch Beck Gallery at Alma College. The exhibit showcases pop-surrealistic paintings focusing on toy play.
The show is on display from Monday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Feb. 8. Admission is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. A closing reception with the artist will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8.
Pickens’ focus on toys developed as he worked to complete his master’s thesis at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2015. The majority of his other paintings focus on landscapes and figurative portraits.
“Toys facilitated my imagination and desire to create at an early age,” says Pickens, an adjunct professor at Adrian College. “I decided to honor them as an important influence on creativity through staging dioramas that depict whimsical scenarios.
“These scenarios are assembled in a manner that a child could have presumably erected from objects associated with playtime,” says Pickens. “Each arrangement is governed by simple interests in color and form, all the while implying an absurd narrative.”
After crafting a diorama of each scene, Pickens works to rebuild the image with paint. His goal is to create immersive paintings that emphasize light and the materiality of the depicted objects.
“The paintings also offer the opportunity for my own observances of the world to be subtly expressed,” says Pickens. “I typically interweave commentary on topics such as environmental concerns, gun rights, native activism and even art criticism. It is my hope that the lighthearted veneer entices the viewer to look beyond the surface and acknowledge the weighty concept that informed each painting.”