Billy White loves picnics.

For the artist, there is no better way to connect and celebrate almost anything than by gathering with family, friends and for Billy White, the childhood heroes that have inspired him as an artist.

White repeatedly invites nostalgic icons such as Vincent van Gogh, Sally Field, Eddie Murphy, Elvis, and Redd Foxx to make appearances in his art, and they are of course invited to his painted picnic, which is open to everyone.

Picnics have interestingly become a pervasive theme in the drawings, paintings and sculptures created by many of the studio artists at the NIAD Art Center in Richmond, CA. NIAD is a nonprofit space dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities, like Billy White, work full time as artists. This group-longing for outdoor recreation and camaraderie is likely the result of the pandemic, which separated these artists and friends for more than two years.

Now that everyone is back together again there is a vivid sense of jubilation and a shared desire to reconnect and resurface. As a human, Billy White openly shares his love and upbeat energy with anyone, and everyone, that he crosses paths with. His sincere goodwill for the world and his trueness of spirit feel distinct and rare, and these qualities infuse all aspects of his life including an art practice that ranges from drawing on paper, to painting on canvas and also working in clay.

White’s enthusiasm for life and art is contagious, which is particularly remarkable given some of the challenges he has faced in life. White works intuitively and with complete confidence in his paintings. His deliberate progression across a canvas is decisive and slow, even when the works appear to be quite expressive.

Billy White’s artworks function as intimate, unmediated expressions of how he perceives the world, and they shine a personalized light on the individuals, both family members and more well known celebrities, that inspire him everyday and give his life joy and meaning.

Billy White (b. 1962) is a contemporary Black artist based in Richmond, CA, and Picnic is White’s first West Coast solo exhibition since 2015, and his third exhibition with Shrine.