Area art-lovers will experience double vision in December. The strikingly colorful paintings of Chatham Guild artist Jim Aiken will be featured at the Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro and at the 25th Chatham Studio Tour. And – Aiken has lived a double life – as an accomplished artist and a recognized scientist.
“My first juried show was in the first grade,” Aiken smiles. “There was an art contest in our school, and my painting was selected to represent my grade.” He has painted all his life. Growing up in Vermont, he studied biology at Dartmouth and earned a PhD in pharmacology at the University of Vermont. He enjoyed photographing the Vermont country side and began painting his signature exaggerated color pallet landscapes. In 1966, Aiken exhibited professionally in Burlington.
Jim’s career took him to Kalamazoo, Michigan to do cardiovascular research at the Upjohn Company. Then, that company was bought by a Swedish company which took him to Stockholm. “I didn’t bring painting materials with me, but my son gave me a small package of acrylic paints,” he recalls. ”I started painting my new surroundings, and my Swedish language teacher encouraged me to show my work.” He moved back to the US and ultimately retired from the pharmaceutical industry. He then moved to Colorado to take over the leadership of the Keystone Symposium program in molecular and cell biology which brought scientists together all over the world. Finally, his travels brought Jim to settle in Chatham Country. “I have gained so much perspective from travel, which I feel enhances my art.” “I feel that my scientific and artistic lives are comfortably integrated,” he asserts. “You are never not a scientist – it is always on your mind – my painting has always taken me to a different place.”
Aiken has worked wood, bronze and a variety of media. He even created and exhibited working duck decoys. He has shown his work in Burlington, Stockholm, Kalamazoo, Indianapolis and all over Colorado. He paints mostly with acrylics and some oils. His paintings have sold for as much as $5000. In this market they range from $400 to $1000.
His paintings are inspired by nature, but his use of light and color gives them an almost surrealistic look. He says that his favorite artists include Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and Mark Rothko, who all experimented with light. “I hope that people who view my work have a good feeling and are impressed by the color pallet,” he stresses.
Visitors to the 25th Chatham Studio Tour will get their opportunity to experience Jim Aiken’s unique paintings first hand in his Studio (#15) in Fearrington Village.