From 20 NORTH GALLERY On Friday, January 11, 20 North Gallery will open “Toy Stories,” an exhibition of captivating oil paintings by Toledo area artist Aaron Pickens. The exhibit will continue through March 30, 2019. A free public reception will be held Friday, Jan. 11, from 6 to 9 p.m. The “Toy Stories” exhibit features joyful and insouciant paintings with a whimsical sense of playfulness that belies the serious narratives they symbolize. Pickens’ paintings are created through dedicated observation of toy tableaux that the artist has built. With an emphasis on light and materiality, he carefully constructs these still life compositions to captivate the viewer. Pickens weaves an additional layer of depth into these bright, bold paintings with the toys and their depicted actions symbolizing and commenting on social issues relevant to today. A motif in Pickens’ artwork is to critique from a self-effacing position. Pickens states, “One of the unifying themes in my artwork has always been the desire to quietly disrupt some form of artistic convention in a highly refined manner, often using humor to do so.” Activism, art criticism, gun rights and environmental issues are examples of topics addressed in these vibrant works that entice and encourage the viewer to look longer and discover the underlying commentary. 20 North Gallery art director Condessa Croninger remarks, “We are proud to ring in the New Year and an exciting twenty-sixth exhibition season with celebrated and rising talent, Aaron Pickens. An artist with local roots, Pickens has an admirable dedication to the arts, fostering new talent through his role as an adjunct instructor at Adrian College among other institutions of higher education. As he expands his artistic career, we are delighted to be a venue hosting his popular and thought-provoking paintings that exhibit a strong duality. The way each viewer may bring a new perspective to each artwork is a true testament to the artist’s innate ability to create multi-layered paintings that discuss matters of social justice, yet are accessible to the child within all of us.” Aaron Pickens (Toledo, Ohio) received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in digital arts from Bowling Green State University (Ohio) in 2011 and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania) in 2015. Aaron currently resides in Grand Rapids, Ohio and, in addition to his fine art painting, works as a studio assistant for a digital installation artist. Also, as an adjunct instructor, Pickens has taught art courses at Owens Community College (Perrysburg, Ohio) and Adrian College (Michigan). With a background in both digital and traditional media, Pickens’ two main bodies of artwork comprise toy tableaux still life and alla prima plein air oil paintings, both of which have been accepted into juried exhibitions throughout the United States. Recently, Pickens was awarded best of show at both NOWOH (The Annual Northwest Ohio Community Art Exhibition) 10 and NOWOH 11 held at Bowling Green State University in the Willard Wankelman Gallery. In addition to the “Toy Stories” exhibit, 20 North Gallery continues to display glass, paintings, jewelry and artists’ cards by noted artists of the region. Gallery hours are Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 4p.m. 20 North Gallery and Aaron Pickens will be welcoming friends and collectors at the free Public Reception for “Toy Stories” on Friday, January 11, from 6 – 9p.m. The reception will feature a free appetizer buffet and cash bar. Patrons will also have the opportunity to engage with the work and converse with the artist on Thursday, February 7, 2019 in a whimsical and interactive, narrative-based activity, “Ekphrastic Mad Libs,” as well as at an Artist Demonstration and Talk on Thursday, March 14, 2019….