CALDBECK aikman THE EVERGLADES oil on linen x CAi
“The Everglades” by Cicely Aikman.

Caldbeck Gallery in Rockland will show the oil-on-canvas paintings of Cicely Aikman (American 1923-2013) from Feb. 13 to April 13, with an opening reception slated for 4 to 6 p.m. March 1.

For this exhibition, “From Friendship to Florida,” the works were selected from the artist’s Friendship studio in 2005, right before Aikman and her artist husband, Fred Scherer, moved permanently to Vermont, in order to be with Scherer’s daughter, fiber artist Deidre Scherer. Of this work that the gallery selected to remain in Maine, half is about Aikman’s rocky shore of Friendship; the other half of the work is about her winters spent in Florida, painting the abundance of plant and bird life there. This is the first time that these paintings have been shown together.  

Aikman often described her two painted worlds: “We live on a tidal cove in Friendship. Each morning a complete surprise awaits me as I walk around the corner of my studio and on down to the shore. I marvel at what time and weather have done to absolutely stun me, again and again! This small spot of coastline, rocks, water, mudflats, and islands floating in the pristine air, hold the essence of the world.”

About her Florida world, she said, “During my winters in Vero Beach, I worked out of doors in my open-air studio, shielded from the southern sun by a tarp. I drew and painted palm, banana, and orange trees, birds and alligators, and the tides and reflections in the canal, which surrounded our little house. After Maine’s rather somber landscape, this place, with its tropical plants and animals, was just thrilling.”

Aikman began showing her work with the Caldbeck Gallery in 1990 and continued showing there until she moved to Brattleboro, Vermont, in 2005, where she lived until her passing in 2013.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Aikman’s family moved to Los Angeles when she was 6 years old. Through living in a land of high mountains, desert vistas and the Pacific’s pounding surf, Aikman’s visual take on life took root. She studied at the University of Chicago from 1940 to ’42, and then at the Art Students’ League in NYC from 1942 to 1946.

“This was a serious art education,” the artist reflected years later. “Our only regret as students was that due to World War II, we could not get to Europe, in particular to Paris, to see firsthand the works of Picasso and Matisse.”

But after the war, she did travel to Rome, then Paris, where she lived for a number of years, taking part in the expatriate community of artists who were drawn to the cultural life of Europe. Once back in New York, Aikman began exhibiting her work at Pyramid gallery, an artists’ collective, showing alongside her downtown peers, which included Lois Dodd, Rudy Burkhardt, Edith Schloss and Gretna Campbell.

In the ’40s and ’50s, she painted winters in New York City and summers in Provincetown, showing in New York at Green Mountain Gallery, Blue Mountain Gallery and the Westbeth Gallery. She met Fred Scherer while working at the Museum of Natural History, where Scherer was immersed in painting the diorama murals behind the animals in the museum’s exhibitions. His murals can be seen today, as fresh as the day they were painted. 

The couple moved to Maine in 1973. The rest of Aikman’s Maine story is a painted history of the magic of the rocky shore and the rocks dumped there by the receding glacier 10,000 years ago.  

Caldbeck Gallery is at 12 Elm St., Rockland. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and by appointment. For more information, email [email protected], go to, or call 207-594-5935.