Monday, December 7, 2015

Think Local and Support Artists in Your Town or City

Image result for jim pittman artist
Jim Pittman painting
Image result for carole barnes artist
Carole Barnes painting
On the Internet and in e-mails, I am seeing more and more posts and photos urging folks to "Buy Local" and "Support Your Local Artists". Last week, I attended an Open House at New Town Art Gallery in Williamsburg where I marveled at the outstanding work on view by the gallery artists as well as the visiting artists there. I could stand and look at the Jim Pittman paintings for a very long time and always discover something new in his brushwork and design. His painting to the left was not in the show but is similar to the works there although brighter in color. Paintings by Carole Barnes blended in well with the Pittman work, making a strong entrance display at New Town. The work of both artists has a distinct tie and feel of antiquity. I've enjoyed Carole's art for years and on more than one occasion have taken a workshop with her.

"Will There Be Peace Anywhere?" ©Mary Montague Sikes
While in Williamsburg, I stopped by Prince George Art and Frame where a show of work by the gallery artists is on display.  My painting, "Will There Be Peace Anywhere?" is one of the pieces on view there.

Local gallery artists have a continuing show at the Art Speaks  Gallery at the Mathews Bay School. "Field of Poppies", an encaustic is one of my pieces for sale there.

"Field of Poppies" ©Mary Montague Sikes

My mixed media painting, "Heat of Summer" is featured along with work by other area artists in the Claris Financial Art Gallery at Innsbrook in Richmond.

"Heat of Summer" ©Mary Montague Sikes
In Petersburg, the new Ward Center for Contemporary Art has paintings and sculpture by a variety of mostly Virginia artists on display on three levels. The Grand Gallery is a spacious and impressive location for large-scale art. My painting, "The Red Bud", is on display in the studio area, "Cockade Alley", located behind the Grand Gallery.

"The Red Bud" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Crossroads Art Center in Richmond is a thriving sales venue for artists in all price ranges. Not only does the gallery feature and promote local art, but the Center has numerous workshops throughout the year.

With so many locations for artists throughout the state, I hope people, especially art lovers, will consider visiting their local art galleries and other art display venues as they go about their holiday shopping. Many of the galleries in Virginia also have work available for sale on line.

Please support your local artists.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Art Open House at Prince George Gallery in Williamsburg

"Painting from a Still Life"
Last Saturday, I was one of about 10 gallery artists who participated in an Open House at Prince George Art and Frame in Williamsburg VA. Four of us, Bonnie Coyle, Edwin Green, Patricia Rapoport, and I, painted from a still life set up by gallery owner Fred Miller. Others, like Hank Mook, a papier mache artist, demonstrated how they create their work. It's not often I get to be with other artists with the opportunity to paint, so this was a fun event.

"Pumpkin and Flowers" ©Mary Montague Sikes
We each got to know more about the other artists who share space on the walls of Prince George Gallery, and we also had the opportunity to talk with those people who dropped in to visit and watch us at work. It would be fun to have more of these Open House events with artist demonstrations in other areas, including Petersburg, at The Ward Center for Contemporary Art. 

Although I don't usually work in pastels, I used them to create a painting on 300-pound Arches paper, 15 x 11. Before going to the gallery, I primed the paper with orange acrylic paint. I also did a small 5 x 7 still life on pastelbord, a surface I had never before used for soft pastels.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Carol Anna Meese - Her Paintings Enhance the Walls of The Ward Center

The spacious Grand Gallery of the Ward Center for Contemporary Art is a treasure to visit. The paintings of Carol Anna Meese enhance its walls and make it ever more special. The vibrant waves crashing against the Atlantic Coast of our great continent can be felt as well as seen by the visitor who studies Meese's work and is entranced by the power.
Carol Anna Meese stands next to a piece of her vibrant art ©Mary Montague Sikes

Carol Anna Meese with a wall of "freed" work ©Mary Montague Sikes

Meese created the amazing work in the Ward show while studying the sea and the sky and the changing weather of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She watched in awe of the birds flying south.

"I wished I too could join them soaring above the earth, sailing to a new land if only for a season," she says in her statement about the exhibition.

"Some beam flows through my body and I lose consciousness," she writes and I believe her.

The work of Meese develops from her senses and her moods. She does not plan it. Her gestural brushwork is evident in each painting and causes the viewer to linger.

This is a show not to miss. Visit the gallery, open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m.
The Ward Center for Contemporary Art Grand Gallery ©Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Excitement Looms, Art Gleams, Gallery Glows with Enthusiasm

Michele Craft with Bonnie Koenig paintings ©Mary Montague Sikes
Beautiful art enchants me. It always has. Enthusiastic people inspire me. They always will.

The Ward Center for Contemporary Art has both. On the second Friday for the Arts, that is evident. At mid-afternoon, artists begin to appear, bringing in new work, photographing their shows already hanging, discussing past events. Soon, musicians begin to wheel in instruments and set-up equipment. Caterers show up with their necessities for a successful Open House.

During the process, there are lots of smiles, especially from Michele Craft, the Center's events coordinator, and from Tammy Gray who is charming and enthusiastic as she tidies up the entrance and offers help where needed.

"It's just fun," Craft says. "Last opening I met so many people. Just love it." Born in Manhattan and from Rochester NY, Craft started working at the Art Center during the summer. She and her husband live in Petersburg.

Bonnie E. Koenig is one of the artists featured in the Grand Gallery during this Open House. A native of
"Responses to Nature" - Bonnie Koenig ©Mary Montague Sikes
Virginia, she finds her inspiration in the "intricacies and colors of nature and from natural formations." She loves beautiful landscapes and painted more traditionally early in her career. Some of her work now is from on-site compositions; other pieces come from an internal source.

Koenig uses unconventional tools such as kitchen spatulas in her mixed media paintings. She says that patiently layering colors "creates mood and place" in her work. They are lovely and thought-provocative works of art.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Visiting Ward Center Brings Back Memories of Richmond

"Art in the Underground at The Ward" ©Mary Montague Sikes
After spending 10 years at Petersburg Regional Arts Center, touring the renovated Ward Center for Contemporary Art brings back many memories, especially in the Underground. In 2002, when I looked at floor plans for PRAC, I had difficulty deciding which gallery space I wanted in the facility that would replace Shockoe Bottom Arts Center in Richmond.

This was a turbulent time for everyone after the world turned dark and changed on 9/11, 2001. I had grown used to being in Shockoe Bottom for opening night each month and to attending other events there, including workshops by the late Roland Roycraft, a nationally-known watercolor artist at the time, and Carole Barnes, a popular acrylics instructor. Along with most of the other artists at Shockoe Bottom, I was at a loss for what to do--stay with a new group somewhere in Richmond or follow Rusty Davis and his mother Deanna Brizendine to Petersburg.

The two of them founded Shockoe Bottom Arts Center in 1994, modeling it somewhat after the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria and giving artists the chance to have affordable studio space in Richmond. The old tobacco warehouse building featured the prominent Lucky Strike water tower landmark rising above it. At one point, Rusty promoted an art contest to paint that tower.

Davis always wanted to keep the Art Center in Richmond. However, because of disputes with the owner of the Shockoe Bottom building, he incurred legal fees that he said made it impossible to afford property in the city. Going to Petersburg was the "best deal", especially when those city officials "courted him" because of their hope the new Art Center would help revitalize the downtown.

Out of loyalty, I made the decision to follow Rusty and his artist mother to Petersburg. Studying their plans, I went back and forth for several months between a large studio space on the third floor or a smaller space with a closet and two inset areas located across from the elevator in the basement. In the end, I chose the lower floor and was soon glad that I did because the large elevator failed and, because of the expenses involved, was never put back into operation. The small elevator that was left was unreliable, so I used the stairs whenever possible.

My Studio PRAC 2012 ©Mary Montague Sikes
That spring and summer, everybody worked together to develop the studio spaces in the old Butterworth Furniture Store building. After the dry walls went up in my studio, my husband and I painted them white and the wooden inset area, black. It made a striking display space for my paintings. Everything came together for an opening in July 2003. Rusty and Deanna had great plans for PRAC. He mentioned that he intended to put up a billboard along I-95, advertising PRAC. However, that and other plans never came to fruition. Both Rusty and his mother developed disabling illnesses.

Running the Art Center fell on his sister, Donna Jacobs, who brought enthusiasm to a difficult situation. She managed juried shows each month that were popular and gave artists the opportunity to compete for a total of $600 in prize money for 11 open house events each year. But, gradually, most of the original artists left for spaces in Richmond and other locations. I stayed until PRAC closed in July 2013 and was sad to see it go.
Terry Ammons sculpture in The Underground ©MMSikes
The configuration of the Underground at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art is nice. The ample hallway spaces provide opportunity for the display of sculpture as well as paintings. The placement of the Terry Ammons sculpture is thought-provoking.

At long last, Petersburg appears to be breaking out. The shackles and the cries of dying soldiers on the Civil War battlefields are disappearing and growing ever quieter. They will never be forgotten, but new art galleries, more restaurants, a new brewery, and The Ward Center for Contemporary Art are brightening the look and the mood of Old Towne Petersburg. I like the feel.

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Old Towne Petersburg" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Last summer, my husband and I visited the construction site of the Ward Center for Contemporary Art in Petersburg VA. We were there the same day the filming of "Ithaca" began nearby in Old Towne. False store fronts were installed to create the set of the movie that is based on the novel, The Human Comedy, published in 1943 by William Saroyan. Meg Ryan directed the film, scheduled for release in 2016. It was Ryan's performance in the movie "Sleepless in Seattle" that inspired me to write my novel Daddy's Christmas Angel.

Old Towne Petersburg is now a popular setting for movies. During the filming of "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg, the director, was often seen in the downtown just as Ryan was last summer. The film-making is bringing a revival to the area.
All the production activity in the historic district of the old city, reminds me of why I liked Petersburg so much when the Petersburg Regional Art Center first opened 12 years ago in 2003. I had a studio gallery in the basement of PRAC for all of the 10 years it was open. That space in The Ward Center for Contemporary Art is now the center of the beautiful new configuration of studios. 
The day we first visited, dust was flying as dry walls were hammered in place. The same old pressed metal ceilings remained overhead, and I wondered if the new paint would flake from them as it did almost daily when my studio was there. I loved the space that we painted white with black walls in the back. I chose a glass door that gave a more open look to the display. The new studios located in the area now have glass doors and a look that makes them special.
Mary Montague Sikes' Basement Studio at PRAC

Performance at PRAC during a Friday for the Arts Open House in about 2010

Grand Gallery at The Ward Center for Contemporary Art on Opening Night 2015
Over the years, I discovered that visitors seldom made their way down to the basement. Now new signage and offices in the front of the big open main gallery should encourage traffic flow to the lower level in the Ward Center.

For many years, the Butterworth building, constructed in 1848 or possibly a little later in the 1800s, was home to a large furniture business. Furniture and other remnants from the former store remained long after the building reopened as PRAC in 2003. 

The original wooden floor now has been beautifully refinished as part of the renovation of the large Grand Gallery space. New lights hang from the ceiling and more studio spaces flank the back of the first floor. In all, there will be 57 artist studios. Above it all, the Butterworth Flats provide one and two-bedroom modern living spaces. 

It's an exciting time for Old Towne Petersburg. Although I sometimes still hear the sounds of soldiers marching in the streets and still sense the sadness that long loomed over the town, I believe there is hope with the fulfillment of creativity in the air. I believe that art can bring new joy to the city.