The Big Picture

Painting for museums and parking ramps alike, artist Ta-coumba Aiken treats the city as his canvas

This philosophy was evident in the set designs Aiken created for a recent theatrical production of Ajax by Pangea World Theater. In effect, Aiken integrated his art into the very fabric of the performance. Massive, gauzy bolts of cloth covered with gold and black arabesques hung behind the performers. A cloth painted in the same manner lay on the floor at the play's onset, representing Achilles' armor. And a colorful mandala acted as a focal point for the performers' movements.

"The circular pattern was very important to the play," said Dipankar Mukherjee, the artistic director at Pangea World Theater. "When we first were discussing the text, Ta-coumba and our lighting designer decided to build around the circular cosmology. We then decided to make people move in circles around his circle and make a kind of journey....He brought this sense of interconnectedness up from his own cultural background."

Looking back at Aiken's painting "She Speaks," one finds these same circles, swirling around the heads of angels, streaming from their mouths, circling around a cross form and underneath an outstretched body flying through the sky.

The rapture: Ta-coumba Aiken calls his swirling, colorful style "spirit writing"
The rapture: Ta-coumba Aiken calls his swirling, colorful style "spirit writing"

"It's a real exciting time for me," Aiken says. "There's a devil and an angel on each of my shoulders, and they're whispering in both ears. I'm constantly trying to make sense of all that goes on."


Paintings by Ta-coumba Aiken will be on display at The Lounge through March 21; (612) 333-8800.

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