Dover sculptor Paskins exhibits ‘Spirit Revealed’ at Biggs Museum

Despite national acclaim, Dover sculptor Aaron Paskins had never shown his work in this area until the current exhibit “Spirit Revealed: New Works by Aaron Paskins” now on display at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover until July 21. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Aaron Paskins is a Dover sculptor who has been building a national and local reputation for imaginative, inspiring African figures using unexpected materials.

“I’ve been sculpting for over 30 years,” Mr. Paskins said. “I’ve had my work shown all around the country.”

But Mr. Paskins said he’s never fully shown his work in Delaware.

“I wanted to get a feel of different areas and different art worlds,” Mr. Paskins said.

“Every region has their own style and I wanted to experience them before I came back to provide a better experience for the state.”

Now, Mr. Paskins is ready to provide that experience, as visitors can view his first one-person exhibition at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover. It will run until July 21.

The exhibition titled “Spirit Revealed: New Works by Aaron Paskins” is a collection of production pieces, his private collection and some of his newer works.

His sculptures capture the complexity of various indigenous tribes, executed with imagination and a touch of fantasy.

“I love focusing on the African culture and their experience,” Mr. Paskins said. “I want to tell those stories. If it really doesn’t excite me, I really choose not to do it.”

Mr. Paskins said he creates his art based on whatever he’s feeling at the moment.

This work by Mr. Paskins is titled “Chikelu.” It is made of resin, clay, metallic oxides and jewelry. In the Igbo language, “Chikelu” means “created by God.”

“One of the pieces at the museum, called the “Rights of Passage,” I was thinking about a young man going from young adulthood to full adulthood,” Mr. Paskins said.

“I thought what would he have to go through, so I wanted to create a piece based on that feeling. I try to do something that people have never seen before.”

With each sculpture taking between two to three months to complete, and several projects going on at any given time, Mr. Paskins manages to keep his plate full.

“The smaller pieces I usually can do in few months,” Mr. Paskins said. “But for the larger pieces I’m usually working on several large pieces at a time, so they take about a year to complete if it’s over six or seven feet high.”

He said he uses a lot of natural elements to create his antique look.

“I try to find all different types of metals,” Mr. Paskins said. “I use a lot of various metallic oxides and binders as well as old pieces of steel or copper. Any type of metal that I can find to incorporate them into my pieces I use.”

“I scavenge for them,” he added. “I can be walking through a trail, or sometimes I can see a rock on a cliff when I’m out of town. I find various ways to get the items I want to recreate or need.”

Mr. Paskins credits his parents for his lifelong love of art.

“I came from four generations of artisans,” Mr. Paskins said. “They were portrait or landscape painters. From the age of 5 to about 7 my parents had me going to various museums and surrounded me with art. We had a lot of art growing up in my house and I always wanted to be an artist because of that.”

Despite being an accomplished painter, Mr. Paskins ventured down slightly different artistic paths than his relatives.

“I just wanted to try something different,” Mr. Paskins said. “For years I was doing murals everywhere, commercially and residentially from here to Miami. I just wanted to stand out more because the world has a lot of great painters. I’m a great painter myself but I just wanted something different, so I decided to do sculptures.”

This work by Aaron Paskins is entitled “Ethiopia.” It is made of resin, clay and metallic oxides. Mr. Paskins often simplifies the human forms he composes into surfaces on which he can carve relief scenes of Africa featuring animals and depictions of native people. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Paskins said he’s been overwhelmed by the positive feedback he has received so far about his exhibition at the Biggs Museum.

“People have been really appreciative,” Mr. Paskins said. “It means a lot to me. “Once you do enough shows you get used to the responses, but I’m always just excited as they are when people approach me about my work.”

“I remember a time when I didn’t have any of this so it makes me just as happy and excited for people to enjoy my work than I am for them to come to see it,” he added. “It’s just a great feeling displaying my work here in Dover. People are shocked that they didn’t know about me.”

That was the case with Biggs Museum curator Ryan Grover before he approached Mr. Paskins about having his own exhibition at the museum.

“To be honest I knew Aaron because he worked for the state a few times working on exhibitions so we overlapped with each other through the years with his projects,” Mr. Grover said. “But I never knew he was an artist, or a painter.

“One of his collectors came and told me that I have to meet this guy named Aaron Paskins. I kept thinking to myself his name sounds familiar and I connected with him through his website and when he came in, I was like ‘I know him.’”

From there Mr. Grover said the museum wanted Mr. Paskins to feel comfortable showcasing his work at the museum, so they invited him to be a part of the Citywide Black History Month Celebration in February.

“Adjo” combines resin, clay, metallic oxides, acrylic paint and a bull horn. In the Yoruban language of Nigeria, “Adjo” means “one who is anointed by God.”

“That was a way to make him feel comfortable with working with us and then we decided to showcase his exhibition here,” Mr. Grover said.

“We opened this quietly on May 3 and the next day was Dover Days and we had close to 1,000 people through our doors. The reception has been great.”

Mr. Paskins said he doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

“I have more upcoming shows and exhibits,” Mr. Paskins said. “We’re trying to get more pieces created. One of the hardest problems or processes is our production line because when a piece is created, it is usually purchased. So you have to fill those gaps and when you have multiple shows you can’t show the same pieces over and over.”

“You’re always constantly working,” Mr. Paskins added. “I’m a team with my wife. There’s no way I would have gotten where I am without her. She handles the business side.”

But through it all, Mr. Paskins continues to be appreciative for everything.

“Anytime you get anyone interested in your work, you treat it with the utmost respect,” Mr. Paskins said. “I’m not an arrogant person at all. Anyone who loves my work knows that. I’m genuinely appreciative of everything.

“I love art and knowing that I have some type of impact through my art means everything to me. It’s a bittersweet moment that my parents aren’t here physically to see everything come full circle, but I know they’re here with me in spirit as everything that I’ve been doing is a tribute to them.”

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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