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Artist Janet Taylor Pickett's "Three Sisters" piece will be on display from May 27 to Sept. 3 in the Oceanside Museum of Art. Courtesy photo.
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New art exhibit explores personal history and ancestry

OCEANSIDE — An upcoming art exhibit in the Oceanside Museum of Art’s explores the personal history and ancestry of artist Janet Taylor Pickett.

Pickett is a mixed media artist whose work is inspired by her life experience as an African American woman. Her work, which will be on display in the “Light, Color and Desire” exhibit from May 27 to Sept. 3 in the Oceanside Museum of Art, explores blackness, identity and history through exuberant colors and multi-textured experimentation.

Pickett was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1948, the third generation in her maternal family to be raised in that city, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Her father, Dempsey Taylor Jr., was born in Brownsville, Tennessee and travelled north during the Great Migration, settling with his family in Ypslanti, Michigan.

“This imbrication of personal and shared black history is concealed in Pickett’s work, which pours forth from an arduous path sowed with the sorrow of memories and a sea of desires,” said Jennifer Baahng, the exhibit’s curator. “In particular, Pickett’s becoming was influenced by Romare Bearden, whose collaged elements became the bedrock of her own work, situating her as a celebrated collagist.”

Baahng is the leading scholar on Pickett’s work and represents the artist in New York. Established in 2003 and located on Madison Avenue, the Jennifer Baahng Gallery specializes in post-war and contemporary art and presents intellectually rigorous and visually revelatory exhibitions that are both historically resonant and forward thinking.

Pickett’s artwork features vivid images, as well as mythical symbols and historical art references. Pickett’s work is showcased in the form of luminous portraits of singular female subjects, often herself, gazing out while enveloped in vibrant colors and iconic figures including birds, flowers and botanica. These figures are incarnations of an ongoing desire for social, sexual and spiritual freedom.

The exhibit tells a story that has been influenced by the artist’s visual conversations with three of her primary creative interlocutors: Johannes Vermeer, Henri Matisse and Frida Kahlo.

Pickett is positioned as an artist concerned with color, specifically the hues and the way they inter-animate each other. Her artwork features a saturated color palette similar to that of a kaleidoscope. Rather than shading, she uses contrasting and unmodulated colors to create volume and structure.

Pickett’s artwork is an expression of a life being led in the pursuit of psychical, spiritual and aesthetic liberation. The story that her work tells serves as a reminder of the imbrication of life in natural cycles of death and renewal, and the tender and tenuous relationship between light, color and desire.

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