Jaylen Pigford, the young Texas painter whose solo show ‘Digging for Daisies’ opens this week at Ivester Contemporary, is an entirely self-taught artist whose creative journey began with a handful of school friends not that many years ago. “When I was younger, I had a group of friends,” Pigford says. “Some of them… knew how to draw really well, and I thought that was really cool. That was something that I was attracted to. And, of course, them being a little bit older that me – I was the youngest – and me looking up to them a little bit, I wanted to do what they were doing. So every time they would get together and sit down and, you know, have these drawing sessions, I would sit down with them and get to drawing with them.
“I wasn’t good at first,” Pigford admits. “But, you know, I kept doing it and kept practicing [and] got a little bit better, a little bit better. Over the years my skills developed and I sort of… I fell in love with it. I loved the process of drawing or painting. It’s something I took and just ran with it. I still do it to this day.”
Once he realized he’d discovered a new passion, Pigford set out to learn more about the world of art and painting. “Being a young kid and being curious, I wanted to look up some older artists, so I just Googled ‘famous artists,’” he says. “And of course the big names are going to pop up: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and Picasso. And I guess I formed this idea that I should paint the way that they were painting. Not copying, but being inspired by their work.”
Finding inspiration in the greats, Pigford developed a unique style of his own, using bold colors to paint solitary figures often surrounded by various objects; skulls, clouds, hearts, and flowers often make appearances in his works. “The bright colors, the bold colors, the skulls, the hearts – I love all that stuff,” he says. “I’m very influenced by Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali and Picasso, all those people.”
‘Digging for Daisies’ represents a collection of recent works by Pigford. “This is a body of work that I’ve been working on for about the past eight or nine months now,” he says. “Usually what I like to do with my paintings, what I like to talk about, are things that are going on in my life, things that I’ve experienced. I’m just talking about me being in these negative environments or situations and having the strength to get through whatever it is that I’m going through, you know? Being able to change my life and make it the life that I want to live. It’s pretty much a series about growth.”
That theme is reflected in the title, ‘Digging for Daisies,’ which Pigford says was suggested by Kevin Ivester, owner of the eponymous gallery. “We were just throwing around names because I’m bad with titles,” Pigford says. “Really, the way I see ‘Digging for Daisies’ is like having hope. Having hope to want more, or want better. So you’re digging through all this mess, you’re digging through everything just to find that daisy, you know? That’s the way I see it. I see it as hope.”
‘Digging for Daisies’ is on display at Ivester Contemporary January 29 – March 5.