Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Supporting the Arts in a Safe Environment for Artists

"Packing up in my studio" ©Mary Montague Sikes
The sad and tragic fire in an old warehouse building in Oakland, California reminds us once again about the importance of safety and vigilance in the life of an artist. Over the years, I have had art studios in several old buildings. I seldom questioned safety or the fire codes compliance situation in these artist facilities. I enjoyed working and showing paintings surrounded by other artists. I liked having an Open House to attend each month where patrons of the arts gathered.

I expected these buildings to be safe. I trusted those who operated them. More than one was a converted warehouse. Others were former school buildings.

Artists need spaces to house their works in progress. They covet places where they can show their paintings, crafts, sculpture, and more. They long for camaraderie, so they often look for and find nooks and crannies inside big buildings often located in "bad" areas of town where they can afford to rent.

"Open House Night" ©Mary Montague Sikes
I read somewhere that real estate people love for artists to invade an old rundown area because they know in 10 years it will be booming. That happened with Shockoe Bottom Art Center in Richmond, Virginia a few years ago. The artists converted an old tobacco warehouse into studios. Each month for the Art Open House, the area overflowed with art lovers as well as with those who enjoyed the refreshments and free (at that time) wine. It was fun and exciting to be there. The old section of the city thrived with the presence of the artists until eventually the real estate people came in and took it away. The artists moved to other locations, some of them to an old furniture store in Petersburg. More studio spaces were built and painted in the old buildings uncovered by the artists, and so a new cycle of development began.

Over the years, I have created a very large piece of sculpture inside an abandoned school building; I have painted in a rundown old office inside a once-deserted building; I have walked along many streets where I felt unsafe. I have stood on a sidewalk where slaves were once sold at auction. People were not permitted to live inside the studio spaces they rented in places I called my art home. I suspect that some of them did. After all, artists keep very strange hours. When they are inspired, they don't want to stop work. In one location, I brought in a little sofa that higher powers made me remove in case I became tired one day and fell asleep there.

I am fortunate because I have a working art studio inside my home. If I decide to fall asleep, no one tells me not to. I have a space in Richmond now in a nice well-kept studio/gallery facility. (Thank you, Jenni Kirby, for making this possible.) The Petersburg building now houses apartments, a beautiful art gallery and artist spaces. (Thank you, Noelle Ward and family.)

Because of my own past experiences, I can understand how the situation in Oakland could have occurred. Artists need affordable places where they can work. They need safe locations. They need patrons for the arts. There can be and should be joy in the creation of art.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gloucester Arts on Main has First Annual Juried Members Show

"At the Opening" ©Mary Montague Sikes

"At the Opening and More" ©Mary Montague Sikes
The Gloucester, Virginia community should be very proud of its special art gallery, Arts on Main,  Kay Van Dyke, its founder, and all the special volunteers that have made this amazing art facility possible. Currently, Arts on Main has its first annual members juried show on view throughout the month of October. Well-known artist James Warwick Jones was juror. This show follows many other events there, including the annual show of the Virginia Watercolor Society that was beautifully hung and publicized by the gallery.

Gloucester can be proud of this ambitious venture that has brought in artists from all over the area. Besides presenting shows, the gallery holds art workshops and promotes the arts in many other ways as well.

Artists represented in the show will be at the gallery throughout the month of October. Some will present demonstrations of how they create their work. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What Artist Workshops Inspire You?

"Fitness Machine" acrylic/mixed ©Mary Montague Sikes
I love artist workshops. I love to take them; I love to teach them.

One of my favorites to teach is "Creating with Texture and Design". The painting to the left,"Fitness Machine," is one of my works of art that has texture built up with acrylic mediums beneath the paint surface. I love the study the way the light reflects on the luscious images that glow in this abstract painting on canvas.

The textured work of Jan Sitts first inspired me. I have followed her painting career for a number of years and finally went to Sedona, Arizona to take a workshop with her there. It did not disappoint. However, I discovered taking a workshop when you are flying into the city is far different from taking one, or teaching it, when driving. I use a lot of different mediums in my work, including thick white gesso, regular gel medium, heavy gel medium, gel with beads, and more. Since I spread these materials on my canvas with a painting knife, it takes a while for them to dry. When I can pack up my work in a car, there's no problem with the still soft surfaces. However, when flying, you need to pack up the work and ship it on the last day. That creates lots of problems and extra expense.
"Bell Rock" ©Mary Montague Sikes

My acrylic/mixed media painting, "Bell Rock," was inspired by the Jan Sitts workshop. So was "Pthalo Mountains."
"Pthalo Mountains ©Mary Montague Sikes

Mary Ann Beckwith taught me to love Yupo as a painting surface. A workshop with Carrie Brown led to broken barriers and greater love of texture. She taught me to use thick gesso in ways I had never before tried. She taught me to adore the square format.

My next workshops will be in Hilton Head, South Carolina and in Gloucester, Virginia. Please contact me at monti7olen@verizon.net for more information about registering.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Tapestry for Peace

"Angel of the Earth and Sky" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"There's a place in space for peace."

That's what the late Eve Mackintosh learned from her vision of an angel almost 20 years ago. I met Eve not long before she died in 2005 and am so glad to have had the experience of knowing her. She inspired me to create an angel panel for the Tapestry for Peace project. Please read all about the project at Notes Along the Way.

Before I shipped my watercolor on linen panel called "Angel of the Earth and Sky" off to Denver CO, I brought it to Petersburg Regional Arts Center to hang for a short while. I couldn't help but be fascinated when I found this photograph from the old days at PRAC because I am standing by the same staircase that now has been so elegantly restored at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art. (See the second photo.) Notice that the floors have been beautifully redone as well.

The Tapestry for Peace project brought together art work from around the United States and elsewhere with the concept of peace. Sadly, Eve's vision of the project traveling around the world, inspiring children with dreams of peace, has not yet come to fruition. Perhaps it will one day. After all, "There's a place in space for peace." Hopefully if will be on planet earth.

Restored staircase at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art ©MMSikes

Monday, July 11, 2016

Visit The Ward Center for Contemporary Art for a Journey Through Time

With Noelle Ward and "Dunn's River Falls II"
When Petersburg Regional Art Center was purchased in 2013 and closed for renovations, I was saddened. After all, the historic old building with all its flaws and woes had been a part of my life for ten years. Before that, I spent a few years as a resident artist in Shockoe Bottom Arts Center in Richmond which was the predecessor to PRAC. When SBAC was forced to close and move, I decided to follow Rusty Davis and Deanna Thomas, the founders, to Petersburg, a community like my native Fredericksburg where memories of the Civil War still lingered.

It was a fascinating time. I watched Old Towne go down following a damaging tornado, then rise up again. I saw original artists disappear from their gallery spaces, and new ones come in to replace them. Soon after Rusty carried a large painting up to the third floor for me (since it was too long for the elevator), he vanished due to illness. His mother was gone soon after, leaving only his sister Donna to carry on. She worked with enthusiasm, but there was a severe sense of loss because hopes and dreams were left in the lurch.

"Monet's Pond" and "Budding Falls" in the Underground
Now the Ward Center for Contemporary Art has opened with a richness of bright, well-lit gallery walls and spaces. I was honored to have a one-person exhibition, "Passenger to Paradise" hanging on the walls of the Grand Gallery for the opening events last summer. The original wooden floors remain in the Grand Gallery as does the historic staircase. The Ward Center has begun its own journey through time with new art and massive possibilities. Hopes and dreams are alive once again. Perhaps the best is yet to come.
"Rose Hall Great House"

Friday, June 24, 2016

Using a French Easel to Paint En Plein Air and Indoors As Well

A couple of years ago, I painted en plein air at the Rosewell Plantation ruins in Gloucester. Construction on the magnificent brick house began in 1725. Eventually, it was described as the largest and finest colonial home in America. Thomas Jefferson did some of his first writing at Rosewell. Sadly, the old mansion burned in 1916. The remains are iconic and a little bit eerie.

For many years, I toyed with the idea of purchasing a French Easel to set up for outdoor painting. Although I looked at art stores and online, I never found one that appeared sturdy and attractive for a price I was willing to pay. After all, with all the insects we have in Tidewater Virginia, I'm not sure how often I will use it. Then I studied easels on line some more and looked once again at the Cheap Joe's American Journey French easel and decided it was the one for me. With the specials and other items I ordered, I was able to get free shipping which always attracts me. Since it didn't ship until Thursday, I was worried I wouldn't get it in time for my Saturday event. However, we seem to have a direct route (with regular shipping) from Boone NC to my home. The two boxes arrived on my doorstep by noon last Friday.
"Painting at Rosewell" ©Olen Sikes

The French easel is even nicer than I expected. I love the convenience of the drawers and compartments. Using Rembrandt soft pastels and a few Senneliers, I completed a pastel painting on the grounds of Rosewell. In my studio, I added a few color highlights to the painting. I still have not tried the Sennelier oil pastels I ordered, but that's a project for a different day.

Now I'm looking forward to another excursion en plein air. At my house, the gnats and mosquitoes are out full force. We were fortunate that insects were not a problem for painting at Rosewell Plantation ruins. 

As for Rosewell Plantation, I wonder if someday a restoration will take place. So much history lies hidden among the ruins.
"Rosewell En Plein Air" ©Olen Sikes
Since my first en plein air excursion at Rosewell, I have used my easel to paint outside New Town Gallery (now closed) and at Prince George Gallery on Jamestown Road in Williamsburg. I plan to paint with it once again this Saturday when we will have a floral still-life set up for the Italian Picnic and Open House at Prince George Gallery.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Anderson Gallery, 45 Years of Art on the Edge

"Desert Mountains" - Oil on Canvas ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I received my VCU arts STUDIO alumni magazine, I was excited to read the article about the new book, The Anderson Gallery, 45 Years of Art on the Edge. From the moment I first set foot on the VCU campus in the late 1970s, the Anderson Gallery became one of my favorite places to visit. I was struck by the far out contemporary art always featured in the space. Later on, I was honored to be a part of some of the shows there.

When it was time for my graduate thesis exhibition, I was thrilled that it took place in Anderson Gallery. My large mountain paintings glowed in the perfect gallery lighting. "Desert Mountains" is a 48" x 84" oil painting that was part of that show. Along with 11 other students in my MFA painting class, I spent two years going full time to earn my master's degree. We had visiting artists from New York and California who taught us so much as we got the chance to watch them work in the old school turned studio building along with us. Anderson Gallery was the center for it all.

Bernard Martin is one of the authors of the book about the history of the gallery. I was a student in his painting classes for a couple of years before I was accepted into the master's program. He was an outstanding instructor who taught me so much about making art.

One of the pastel working drawings from my graduate thesis show is part of the permanent collection of the Anderson Gallery. A few months ago, I received a letter from the gallelry informing me that it would be moved to the new location.

The Anderson Gallery was an important part of my years at VCU. I cherish my memories from those days.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

April 1 is Sad Day for Art in Williamsburg

As April 1 approaches, I can't help but feel a little sad. Not only is New Town Art Gallery closing its doors, but the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Education Center will no longer be open.

The closure of the Art Education Center is disappointing for many area artists. When it opened in 2012 on Westover Avenue, there was a feeling of excitement. I was fortunate to to be one of the exhibiting artists in January and February 2013 and hung a show of the pastel paintings from my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. Three other artists exhibited with me those two months, and we had a lovely opening reception on a Friday evening along with another event that Saturday featuring a band. It was a fun time. I've also taught several workshops, including "Painting Like Georgia", in the facility and had several more workshops scheduled for this spring.
"Hotel to Remember Show at the Art Education Center" ©MM Sikes

"Renee Kennedy resident artist New Town ©MMSikes
When I visited New Town Art Gallery last week, there was a feeling of sadness in the air. The gallery was beautiful, as always, and I once again admired the special lighting throughout the space. Everyone in the New Town area and beyond is going to miss the artistic atmosphere that surrounded the space. They will miss the unique attention to creative detail the artists brought. They will miss the opportunity to visit a very special location, if only to browse for a moment during a lunch break.

There are just a few days left. Please visit New Town Art Gallery.
"New Town Art Gallery interior" ©MM Sikes

Friday, February 26, 2016

New Town Art Gallery in Williamsburg Is Closing

"New Town Art  Gallery at Night" ©Mary Montague Sikes
It is sad to learn that New Town Art Gallery is closing on March 29. For almost six years, this lovely and spacious gallery has been open to the public and has served as a beautiful display and sales location for a number of visiting as well as resident artists.

From August to November 2014, I had the opportunity to be one of the visiting artists, and I loved it. When it was my turn to assist in the gallery, the resident artists were wonderful to me and very patient.The artists kept the space beautifully arranged and attractive for visitors. Often, a theatrical group would provide a "teaser" event at the gallery advertising a new production. The cast of "Cats" gave an exciting performance during my stay there.
"Cats" performance at New Town Art Gallery ©Mary Montague Sikes 

The gallery manger, Anne Kushnick, issued this statement regarding the closure, "With our lease ending, we hope to explore new opportunities to show our work and to support the arts in our area. We have been blessed to have had this great experience and share it with all of you."

The location at 5140 Main Street is within walking distance for New Town residents and is close to the Barnes and Noble store. The popular Opus Nine restaurant is across the street from the gallery's main entrance.

A special celebration is planned for March 11 at the gallery. This is "to thank their patrons and the community for their support over the years," Kushnick says.

New Town will surely miss the presence of this very special artist group. Hopefully, they will find a wonderful new space to continue the gallery elsewhere in the area.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Talking on the Radio about Evening of the Dragonfly

  It was fun to be on the radio as the guest of Neal Steele, XTRA 99.1. We talked about the art show I painted for Farrah Ferand, the heroine of my book and how I should have signed her name to the work. I told Neal that I named her for Farrah Faucett because I liked her so much in the long-ago TV hit, "Charlie's Angels". You can hear the podcast of the broadcast if you click on the blue icon. 

Member Showcase: February 2016
Mary Montague Sikes
Author of
Evening of the Dragonfly

Tune in to XTRA 99.1FM to hear the Author interviewed by Neal Steele on CBW's Second Monday monthly broadcast, February 8th at about 8:05AM. If you missed the live broadcast, click the icon below.
About the Book
Threatening telephone calls and strange cars with dark-tinted windows plague artist/teacher Farrah Ferand. Recovering from the tragic loss of her mother, Farrah is trying to adapt to the life of a small-town art teacher when she encounters Dirk Lawrence, a mysterious stranger. Her attraction to him is immediate and electric until Farrah discovers Dirk is part of the Lawrence and Pendesky investment firm that led to her mother's downfall a few years earlier. Farrah's not too perfect dating relationship with Tom Douglas, the town favorite football coach, worsens. An unexpected encounter leads to dates with Dirk and his help with the construction of a dream art studio in her rented house. But trouble looms with Tom who believes he and Farrah are engaged, and the entire town appears to be drawn in. Haunting dreams and lost memories overwhelm Farrah as she creates paintings for a one-person art show. Will shadows of the past ruin all hope for Farrah and Dirk?

About the Author
Mary Montague Sikes grew up near the bloody Civil War battlefields of Central Virginia where thousands died. Those early years in a landscape where tears still flowed sparked her interest in the psychic and the paranormal that carries over into her writing today.

Sikes loves to travel, especially to the Caribbean and Jamaica where she discovered the legend of the White Witch of Rose Hall Great House that inspired her first novel, Hearts Across Forever. More psychic encounters in Sedona, Arizona led to her novel, Eagle Rising. Adventures in Antigua became the book, Secrets by the Sea. Then, an escapade in Trinidad developed into the story of Night Watch. Her love of "Indiana Jones" type quests took her to the Maya Ruins of Palenque and eventually directed her to write Jungle Jeopardy.

She has been told by readers that her novel, Daddy's Christmas Angel, set in a small fictitious American town, is the "best book I've ever read". The romance is a little like "Sleepless in Seattle" and has a happy ending.
An artist before she was an author, Mary Montague Sikes has a scrapbook with drawings she made as a two-year-old. Like Farrah Ferand in Evening of the Dragonfly, she spends many hours each month in a painting studio built over her garage. When she isn't writing or painting, she enjoys travel to exotic destinations that might one day become part of her Passenger to Paradise book series.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Claris Financial, Another Place to Show Art

Art Reception at Claris Financial ©Mary Montague Sikes
Five years ago, John Paxton decided to create gallery space at his business location at Claris Financial in Innsbrook, Glen Allen, Virginia. The result was an impressive curated art display complete with a catered January Open House.

Each year since that time, Paxton and his staff have held an Open House for artists and clients. The latest one took place last week, and this time featured a caricature artist who proved quite popular. I always enjoy seeing the art work and visiting with artist friends.

Thanks for the support of local artists.

Claris Financial Art Reception ©Mary Montague Sikes

"American Lotus" - My painting at Claris