Artist Aaron Pickens’ Comes Out to Play

. December 19, 2018.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” by Aaron Pickens, a painting featured in his Toy Stories exhibit, opening January 11 at 20 North Gallery.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” by Aaron Pickens, a painting featured in his Toy Stories exhibit, opening January 11 at 20 North Gallery.

It’s hard to argue with Aaron Pickens’ belief that the art world often takes itself too seriously. His new exhibit Toy Stories serves as a reminder that creating art is a way of playing.

“I’ve always been obsessed with creating and bringing things into this world, and that first manifested itself as a kid when I would play with toys and create scenarios with Legos, blocks, or other materials,” said the Toledo native and graduate of the Toledo School for the Arts and Bowling Green State University. “I realized that (play) was the infancy of my creative ambition so I felt I wanted to honor that. I think the act of play should be embraced. The overall theme of the exhibit is that play is crucial.”

Play is crucial

Pickens’ exhibit features a series of dioramas and hyper-realistic oil paintings all centered around toys. Most of the playthings featured in Pickens’ art are generic, nondescript, cheap toys; the kind you’d find in a Happy Meal or Cracker Jack box.

“I don’t want people to read too much into why I was using a particular toy. I wanted them to focus on the nature of the work as a whole,” said Pickens.

Most of the pieces in Toy Stories were created with Pickens first constructing a diorama using different toys before created an oil painting with hyper-realistic representation.
This two-part creative process, while painstakingly slow, results in a fascinating look into American culture. The largest piece in the exhibit, a painting measuring 24 by 70 inches, Pickens estimates took about 500 hours to complete.

Teaching fun

When Picken’s, who received his Masters In Fine Arts from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2015, is not creating art, he can be found teaching art classes at any number of local learning institutions including Adrian College, Owens Community College, and his alma mater Bowling Green State University. He also works as an assistant for local artist Erwin Redl of Paramedia LLC.

“Art shouldn’t take itself so seriously. Let’s get back to having fun.” Visit the Toy Stories exhibit to see that Pickens really means that.

Toy Stories opens with a free public reception featuring a cash bar from 6-9pm on Friday, January 11.
On view through March 30, 2019.
20 North Gallery, 18 N. St. Clair St.
419-241-2400 | 20northgallery.com