"My sculptures aren't based solely on my social perspective," says Hawaii-born Ted Pickering. "I'm part Irish, German, English, and Blackfoot." He doesn't want to be pigeonholed as a member of one ethnic group or age. "I won't show in a place that caters to just one race," says the Wadmalaw Islander. "I want to reach outside of the norms of comprehension with my work."
The cyborgs he creates are a hybrid of metal, bone, plastic, and wire, reflecting Pickering's take on friends, relationships, and other life experiences. His sculptures aren't usually for sale; Pickering would miss his metal children too much if they got purchased. "I like to say that they're on holiday from the workshop," Pickering smiles.
Recently, the artist has shown photography at Vickery's and charcoal and pencil work at the Columbus Street Art Gallery. But he's perhaps best known for his proto-mechanical sculptures, built with found objects: TV circuit boards, car parts, and animal organs all blended together to suggest a future filled with broken down android tourists. Some have vacationed more than once — "No Chance at Third Grace" appeared in the Suitcase Show at Cumberland's last year and in a solo show in the City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre.
Pickering's focus has narrowed as his career has progressed. Photographs that he took of rusty objects and sketches he made led to one or two of his sculptures; enigmatic titles such as "From the Descent of Gods, We Are But These" reflect an interest in writing. "The attention to detail comes from my photography, and the elements of color are from painting," Pickering explains. He also includes lights in several of his metal figures in an attempt to capture a robotized version of a sunrise or a pair of gleaming eyes.
"Lights will always fascinate me," says the artist, "and the contrast that different shadows make. Mostly I make things that I wished I had when I was a kid."
That childlike fascination with moving metal continues to grow. Pickering wants to incorporate more moving parts into his pieces as he develops them in his own studio. "It's more rewarding to do things for myself," he says, planning to keep his art home for a while. But while they have no vacations planned, his flights of fancy are too strong to remain locked up forever. — Nick Smith