Artist, Richard H. Eyster ’68

"Other than the births of my three daughters, my arrival at Maumee Valley was the most significant event of my life."

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  • A Beautiful Modern Exhibition Space

    Wolfe Gallery at MVCDS
Wolfe Gallery welcomes painter Aaron Pickens
An exhibition of 42 paintings titled “Split P” by Toledo native Aaron Pickens comes to the Wolfe Gallery for seven weeks starting March 13. Mr. Pickens graduated from the Toledo School for the Arts and now is an assistant professor of fine arts and new media at Indiana University Kokomo. Both his plein air and toy still-life paintings have been accepted into juried exhibitions throughout the United States. With toys used as symbols, he honors the origin of his creative process while infusing the seemingly playful narratives with self-reflection and commentary on social issues.

RECEPTION: Friday, March 17, 5:30-7 p.m. Wolfe Gallery, campus of MVCDS 
EXHIBIT DATES: Friday, March 13-April 28. Wolfe Gallery 

Bio and artist statement

Mr. Pickens was born and raised in Toledo. He attended Toledo School for the Arts between 2001-2007. In December of 2011, he completed his bachelor of fine arts degree in digital arts at Bowling Green State University; in 2015, he earned his master of fine arts degree at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Pickens now lives in Kokomo, Ind., and is an assistant professor of fine arts and new media at Indiana University Kokomo. Both his plein air paintings and toy still-life paintings have been accepted into juried exhibitions throughout the United States.

Toy Tableaux
Toys have been central to my visual vocabulary as a painter. They can be transformed to comment on a wide range of issues using both metaphor and allegory. My aim is to use the familiar imagery of toys to ultimately entice the viewer to look beyond the lighthearted veneer these objects create and acknowledge the often weighty concept that informed each painting. 
When designing a new painting, 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. 
Over the past few years, the underlying theme for my toy-based work has shifted towards developing a self-reflective, sub-series. Most recently, “Judgment Cray” amplifies this creative investigation by using self-deprecating humor to explore the feelings associated with constant evaluation and critique. Within the gallery, eight ominous toy portraits are arranged around both the audience and an effigy of myself, a three-dimensional self-portrait entitled, “Blockhead,” with the intent of creating a confrontational experience.

The use of playful imagery (toys, primary colors, crayons) is intended to reinforce a feeling of inadequacy and a child-like naivete when judged by others. This type of ridicule has become ubiquitous, especially if one has a point of view that deviates from the dogmatic positions held by many and institutions of authority. The fear of belittlement and ostracization inherently leads to self-censorship for the sake of self-preservation. Unfortunately, these strenuous social dynamics lead to fluctuations between self-confidence and self-doubt simmering in one’s headspace.

Plein Air
To complement the obsessive, slow-paced nature of my toy tableaux still lifes, the practice of alla prima plein air painting forces me to work with a sense of urgency. Each small field study is a depiction of a specific time and place, and how I perceived those passing moments both visually and emotionally. Every painting is an adventure in battling the elements, simplifying the complexity of nature, and faithfully recording color relationships to describe an accurate sense of light. These compositions evolve organically, without premeditation or any conceptual agenda. Consequently, working this way yields to a sincerity in the paintings that is difficult to achieve otherwise. Although this process is in stark contrast to my toy tableaux paintings, it is critical in energizing my practice as a realist painter by honing my eye and allowing me to play with the application of paint. 

(The phrase “alla prima” refers to creating a painting in a single sitting or session, and “plein air” is a French phrase for “in the open air,” and refers to painting outdoors.)
Constructed in 1991, the Wolfe Gallery was designed by world-class architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen and displays the work of Maumee Valley students and professional artists. It is a beautiful, well-lit, open space that showcases 2-D and 3-D artwork to full advantage.

For information on displaying your artwork in the Maumee Valley Country Day School Wolfe Gallery, contact LouAnn Glover at

Wolfe Gallery Schedule 2022-23

Chuchen Song/glass artist
Aug. 22-Oct. 7

Athena Art Society Juried Exhibition
Oct. 24-Dec. 1

Ron Cowie ’88/photographer
Dec. 9-Feb. 28

Aaron Pickens/painter
March 13-April 28

Upper School Art Exhibition
May 11-June 2

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Maumee Valley Country Day School is the only age 3 - 12th grade accredited, co-educational, independent school in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.