Join us at the Friends lecture with Ta coumba T. Aiken
October 13, 11am
Ta–coumba T. Aiken is a Twin Cities artist, arts administrator, educator and community activist and a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow. A ’74 alumnus of Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Aiken has served on the boards of the Minneapolis Arts Commission, the African American Cultural Arts Center, Forecast Public Arts, and the St. Paul Art Collective and has acted as an advisor on the arts for both the City of St. Paul and the City of Minneapolis.
Mia Guide Jean Ann Durades shared background and reflections on this Ta-coumba’s multifaceted talent:
How do you talk about an artist who started his career with an exhibition at 6 years of age, who has developed as a master storyteller, and who channels the spirits of his ancestors through form and color, in both paintings and works on paper rooted in abstraction?
Ta-coumba T. Aiken was born in 1952 in Evanston, Illinois. As a boy, he was so proud to be a part of a family of four that included his brother, mother and father. He was always proud to put his parents’ occupations — garbage collector and house cleaner — on the little cards and forms that would ask about it. His mother was also a seer, and a healer, and carved a spiritual path for her sons, and told Ta-coumba that he should devote his life to public service. His art and civic activities have become part of our public commons in Minnesota and beyond.
The imagery in Ta-coumba’s art is deeply engaged with Black history, which you can see in his marks, rhyming, and twisting colorful choreographies. He begins each painting with intuitive freeform underpainting that he calls spirit, then builds energy with rhythmic motifs. He doesn’t try to tell everything in his paintings, and he doesn’t even know all that is going on in the paintings. He is led by the spirits of the ancestors. “The things I make become the marks that I make that weave, swirl together, and beat together like a drum.”
Ta-coumba has a collection of African masks on his wall, and you can see echoes of these masks in his paintings. He sees the masks as people, spirits, stories, that were told before him. They are his professors, gurus, divinities. The masks have their power, he gives them that space, and they give him his space.
Ta-coumba Aiken feels like he’s been given a gift, to be here, and somewhere else at the same time, but it’s not past, present, or future. It’s reality that is constant. Time is on his side, and he is a time traveler. He loves the phrase, “time is of the essence,” because he thinks he is the essence of time.
Please join us in welcoming, listening to and learning from Ta-coumba T. Aiken at the October Friends Lecture, on Thursday, October, 13 at 11 am in the Pillsbury auditorium. Plan to arrive early, anytime after 10:15, to enjoy pre-lecture coffee and pastries with your friends in the Rotunda!