JAYLEN PIGFORD's paintings are critiques. The icons and objects represented in his paintings are more of his time. His birth in 1996 places him on the cusp of the Millennial Generation and Generation Y. It's not surprising then that we find a Nintendo control, Crocs, rotary telephones, and even Chicago Bull's swag on his canvases. These pop cultural objects define his generation. Take a closer look; you'll see sand shovels and waves, sombreros, maracas, watermelon slices, chili peppers, and plenty of skulls and hearts. These references are more specific to his upbringing in Texas and his bi-cultural heritage. If what defines his generation, those objects that cut across race to be recognizable to all viewers, his turn to iconography that is more personal, more about his identity, stands at odds with what defines others. Frida Khalo used hearts and images of nature (roots, flowers, birds, and the like) in creating paintings of herself and her rootedness in Mexico. Jaylen Pigford aligns his work with a similar narrative but also takes us further by repeatedly using skulls as a memento mori. Death is inevitable, the artist conveys, but we shouldn't fear it. Nor should we solely rely on materialism to find joy or self-worth. People in his generation though outside his culture, might not forgo their iPhones or the influencer culture they fuel to think about the fleetingness of life. However, the artist challenges us to dig deeper, turn inwardly, and stand still a little longer to find a more lasting and profound sense of purpose and joy.
JAYLEN PIGFORD (b. 1996) is an Afro-Latino painter born and raised in Corpus Christi, TX, and today, he calls Houston, TX, home. A self-taught artist, Pigford began creating artwork in childhood. The artist's paintings are autobiographical reflections on negative experiences endured in the past and of the adversity to tell stories of self-growth through painting. The artist understands his work to be a balance of light and dark, the good with the bad, this struggle and tension, and our failures that test us—the actions people take to correct injustices and social issues at large matter most to Pigford.