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Art & Art History
University of Mississippi

Q & A with BFA Painting Student Reginald Pickering

View Reggie’s entire BFA Thesis Exhibition “Rainbow Toy Box Project” on our new Gallery 130 website!

Introduce yourself and tell us where you are from.
My name is Reginald Pickering, and I am from Raymond, Mississippi.

What attracted you to the Department of Art & Art History?
I was indecisive about where I wanted to go after graduating from Hinds Community College. Lee McCarty, my former ceramic instructor at Hinds, gave me the advice of looking at the art of the instructors and students from the universities I was thinking about applying to. He showed me Ole Miss first since both he and Sarah Teasley received their MFA. Like everyone, I was captivated by Philip Jackson’s paintings and knew I wanted to study under Jackson.

When did you start getting into art?
I have always loved the arts. My mom would buy extra reams of paper because I was always doodling. By middle school, I knew that I was going to be an artist and go to school for art.

Has your artwork changed during the coronavirus?
My paintings stayed fairly the same during the pandemic. I didn’t have to adjust because of the pandemic since my subjects are primarily objects. And, my art is my only sense of normalcy through this pandemic.

What type of artwork do you create and can you explain your process?
I make representational paintings. Currently, I am a still life oil painter, but I have plans to explore my concept with other mediums. As for my process, I paint using the indirect painting technique that I learned in Intermediate Painting from Philip Jackson. I begin with a detailed monochromatic underpainting. Then, I glaze colors over the painting until I get to the color we see in the finished piece.

What type of artist do you consider yourself?
I am a conceptual artist. The choices I make all go back to my concept I want to convey.

Which artists do you look to for inspiration?
Devan Shimoyama and Kehinde Wiley are two people I look to conceptually because our work deals with similar concepts of challenging the image of masculinity. But, I’ll look to artists Chris Cosnowski and Allan Innman for the technique because we all are using toys as the subject in our still life.

With exhibitions moving online, could you tell us about your BFA thesis?
I joke about how my thesis is a kids-friendly version of my forum. My works still challenge the image of masculinity by having it embracing queerness. Instead of the figure, my subjects will be toys. Such objects are children’s introduction to what society deems acceptable for their gender. When children, especially young men, see my paintings, they will see that it’s okay for them to like “girly” things or identify as LGBT. Hopefully, they will realize those things are not a measurement of their manhood.

What has been your favorite class during your years here?
I have my own unique experience with each of my classes. Whether it’s the people in the class or the class itself, all of my classes have their own memorable moments.

Did you take an online, remote, or hybrid art class? Did it change your way of creating art or learning experience?
I have hybrid and remote art classes this semester. It hasn’t changed the way I create art too much, but I do miss the instant feedback I can get with in-person classes.

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Which professors inspired you the most?
Definitely, Phillip Jackson. I always say that I need to give Jackson a gift basket. Jackson continuously encourages and supports my ideas and concept, even if it resulted in a six-foot-tall painting of a penis or sodomy. He always approaches my work as an artist and instructor first and doesn’t allow his beliefs to influence his critique of my art. I also refer to Jackson as my “yes man” because he doesn’t discourage my ideas or approach to painting. He might already know that a particular idea or technique is not the best way to convey what I am thinking, but he still allows me to try it, so I can learn why that approach is not as successful. Because of that, I can better understand and articulate the choices I make for my art. Outside of painting, it would have to be Lauren Cardenas, Kris Belden-Adams, and Josh Brinlee. All three have introduced me to artists who influenced my work conceptually, had a meaningful discussion with me about my concept, and provided me with resources to further my knowledge behind my concept.

Could you describe a favorite memory here in the department?
I can see the grin on all the ceramicists’ faces when I say this, but my favorite memories in the department are the Empty Bowls Bowl-a-thon and the wood firings. The sense of community and camaraderie is prevalent, which is why Lee Mccarty told me to participate in them at least once. Yes, it’s tiresome and takes hard work to have a successful wood firing and making thousands of bowls for charity, but the company of the others makes it all worth it.

What does the Department of Art & Art History mean to you?
Outsiders will talk about how small our department is and how we often get looked over, but nothing can come close to the community and supportiveness that this department fosters. I know without a doubt that the instructors have the best interests of the students in mind, and the students think of each other as peers first and competitions second. I like to think I know what my life and art would have looked like if I went to a different university, but I don’t want to trade these years in this department for anything.

Do you have any advice for incoming art students?
Your work should be seen by individuals beyond your area. For some students, the only time students and instructors outside their area see their work is during Pre-Thesis Forum or reviews. Be open to criticism even from the people that are outside your area of concentration. You can do whatever you want with their critiques, but don’t be quick to dismiss their critiques just because they are not a student or instructor in your area. Some of my meaningful critiques and discussions about my paintings have been with individuals not in the painting department.

What are you looking forward to when things get back to normal?
I’m looking forward to not having to remember to grab a mask before I walked out the door. Surprisingly, I miss hugging people and talking to people at a not so awkward distance.

How has the pandemic affected your life as an artist?
It forces me to be serious about creating an online presence. Now, everything is digital or going digital. The internet is the temporary museum or gallery until everything gets back to normal.

Can we find you on social media?
You can follow my art Instagram: @reginaldpickeringart

Has social media helped you more during this time?
Definitely. Social media continues to put my art in front of people beyond Oxford and Mississippi. More than ever, people are viewing art online, and all the talks and exhibitions that I can not attend are now being streamed on social media.

What type of music do you listen to while your creating art?
I listen to a mix of genres, but I usually put on Pop first. If I am not listening to music, I will put on a podcast. I’m currently listening to Busy Being Black and The Art of Being Queer.

What’s your favorite thing to watch while being a couch potato?
I’m binging Will & Grace and random shows on Hulu. Before I go to the studio on Sundays, I like to eat breakfast while the Golden Girls play on the tv.

Do you have any plans after graduation?
I want to get a small job, so I can earn a little extra money. I will still be creating work to build up my portfolio for when I apply to art residencies and graduate school in the future.