Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Tale of Two Angel Paintings - The Tapestry for Peace

Eve Mackintosh with Tapestry for Peace project ©MMSikes
"Angel of the Marshland" is one of my favorite angel paintings of all time, and I've been painting angels forever. This painting and my Tapestry for Peace project painting were both inspired by Eve Mackintosh, a lovely lady with whom I had a meeting in Denver, Colorado only a few months before her untimely death in 2005.

I don't remember exactly how Eve and I connected, but I know it was through the National League of American Pen Women. During a trip my husband and I had planned to the Colorado mountains, Eve and I arranged to meet in the lobby of a hotel located in a Denver suburb . When I first saw her, I felt as if we had always known each other. She was vivacious, energetic, and filled with joy about the Tapestry for Peace project she had instigated and that was being sponsored by the Denver Branch NLAPW.

The first panel that Eve Mackintosh showed me in our Denver meeting.
That day, Eve told me about a vision she had in 1997 while driving along Florida I-10. She saw a gigantic angel in front of her, reaching high with the planet earth in one hand and holding another planet close to her heart. Overcome with wonder, she pulled to the side of the road where she heard the words, "There's a place in space for peace."

Eve was uncertain what to do, but she knew in her heart she must do something. She remembered the bloody war scenes depicted by the Grand Bayeux Tapestry of the 1066 Norman Conquest of England. In contrast, she wanted to create a giant peace tapestry that would inspire children to look to the future without thoughts of battle but with dreams of peace. She contacted Masters of Linen in New York City who donated 120 yards of fine linen for the project. When she became an active member of the Denver Branch NLAPW, she shared her story and idea for the tapestry and thus found the help she needed to bring the Tapestry for Peace to fruition.

When Eve described her vision, I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of her project. Using a piece of her linen and Robert Doak intense watercolors, I created "Angel of the Earth and Skies" as a contribution from Virginia Pen Women for the project.
"Angel of the Earth and Skies" ©MMSikes

The angel image is the dominant feature of the art work. Beneath the angel, five oak leaves, representing the earth, float. Three stars,depicting faith, hope, and love, shine in the sky.  Above the angel’s head, two doves fly with a banner of peace. The angel holds three golden and silver ties in her hands. These are the ties that could bind the hearts of people all over the world in an atmosphere of love. 

Before I sent my tapestry panel off to Denver to be part of the Tapestry for Peace project, I displayed it at Petersburg Regional Arts Center. It is on view in the photograph against the old staircase in the main gallery at PRAC. (That staircase is restored and is now a focal point in the Grand Gallery at the Ward Center for Contemporary Art.)

When the angel left me for its long journey, I missed her and decided to create another angel painting with acrylics on a large canvas. Thus, "Angel of the Marshland" was born.
"Angel of the Marshland" ©Mary Montague Sikes
This week, as I began to recall the stories and events that led to these angel paintings, I forgot about the ceramic angel that "posed" for both pieces of art. During a Tuesday night thunderstorm, I was emphatically reminded. That angel is one of three now sitting on a dresser in our bedroom. Every time, thunder sounded and lightning flashed, that angel sounded a little rumbling noise and lit up with light. The other two angels, although they are the ones with batteries and small light bulbs inside them, did not. The ceramic angel spoke to me as she had once before inside a Pennsylvania store where I knew I must purchase her. 

My panel "Angel of the Earth and Skies" is part of the 264-foot long "Tapestry for Peace". "Angel of the Marshland" is on view now at Dara LeBlanc Haynes' Mathews Country Galleria. The ceramic angel stands ready to pose for yet another painting. The new painting will probably be "Angel of the Trees" because I look out into our woods and wonder where angels might hide.

Our nation and our world is in dire need for peace. Perhaps the Tapestry for Peace will one day come out of storage and travel the world inspiring the children. That is what Eve Mackintosh planned all those years ago.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Ward Center for Contemporary Art - A Beautiful Addition to Old Town Petersburg

"Cloud 9 Band Performs at Ward Center" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Old Towne Petersburg is booming. Just up Sycamore Street from where new episodes of "Mercy Street" were recently filmed stands the Ward Center for Contemporary Art. The renovated spaces there are impressive. As a resident artist in Petersburg Regional Art Center for the entire ten years of its existence, I am in awe of its transformation into the Ward Center.

For the July Friday Night for the Arts open house, Cloud 9 Jazz Band was playing beneath the same staircase (beautifully refurbished but no longer functional) where another music group performed in December 2012. The refinished original wooden floorboards sparkled beneath glorious new lights that show off the unique paintings to perfection.The floors fascinate me. Their beauty makes the transformation complete.

"PRAC 2012 Christmas Gala Music" ©Mary Montague Sikes

At the far end of the Grand Gallery, Pegalicious was serving some of the most delicious treats I've ever encountered at an art event. These included appetizer pastries filled with cranberry/almond chicken salad and pimento cheese. Cupcakes with luscious caramel/pecan icing highlighted their dessert table. I was surprised that a line had not formed outside on the sidewalk to enter this special event. That will surely happen in the future as word spreads about the exceptional open house events at the Ward Center.
"Pigalicious serves treats at The Ward Center First Friday open house" ©MMSikes

Two of my large seascape paintings decorate the spacious windows that front North Sycamore Street on the left. The windows, along with the historic Butterworth's sign were retained during the six million dollar renovation project completed last summer.
"Earth Rising" and "Sea Surf" Acrylic Paintings ©Mary Montague Sikes
The Ward Center for Contemporary Art has an open house every second Friday. The next open house will be Friday, August 12. The gallery and most of the artist studios are open anytime by appointment. Contact Noelle Ward, 804.252.9233.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Reorganizing My Art Studio Brings Back Memories

My art on view now at Prince George Gallery in Williamsburg. ©MMSikes
After bringing home a variety of new materials with no good place to put them, I decided to reorganize my art studio. The project has brought challenges, excitement, and memories.

For years, I have stored cards and invitations to art events from various galleries. It's enlightening to see the evolution of quality in these invitations. Many of the early ones are black and white; some are paper prints from a copy machine. Later on, the cards got slicker and much nicer. A lot of the artists are no longer with us or are no longer making art.

I've discovered lost or misplaced art supplies. And I have found little painting treasures I had forgotten I'd made.

I don't know how long this project will take, but, upon completion, I think it will be well worth the effort. Hopefully, I'll have photos to post before too long.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

There's Something About Being with "Creatives"

Mary Ann Beckwith talks about art ©Mary Montague Sikes
I just returned from a week-long visit to Boone NC where I spent five days with nine other "creatives" in Mary Ann Beckwith's experimental painting class. Since I first met Mary Ann in 2005, I have loved her. The atmosphere around her overflows with excitement and positive energy. I listened to her and watched her painting demos, and I just wanted to paint, paint, paint. Sadly, Beckwith plans to retire from teaching workshops and concentrate on her own work. This was her next to last workshop. The last one will be in October 2017 in Austin TX.

Being with other "creatives" in this class was special. I didn't feel the jealousy or competition that sometimes develops in art workshop classes. Instead, there was high energy focus that led me to new ideas and thoughts about making and finishing art. Much of Mary Ann's direction is toward developing design in paintings.

I remembered my early painting classes with Thomas Thorne at the College of William and Mary. He talked about design in artwork then, but it didn't make the impression on me that it should have. I was too enthralled by the intense color of my newly-discovered tubes of acrylic paint to care about anything else. I wanted to be a colorist. I had started out with oil paints that dulled with my overuse of turpentine. I didn't like the smell or the slow drying of the oil materials. Acrylics cleaned with soap and water. I loved them.

Now Mary Ann has taught me to like watercolor paints, especially those manufactured by Robert Doak in his studio in Brooklyn NY. I first painted with those intense watercolors 11 years ago and have been excited by them every since. Because both watercolors and acrylics are water media, I can mix them.

I hated to come home and leave the wonderful intense atmosphere of Mary Ann's workshop at Cheap Joe's in Boone. But I am inspired and thankful for the opportunity to have been with other "creatives". There is just something about them...
Workshop Class at Cheap Joe's ©Mary Montague Sikes

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Don't Hide Away in that Artist or Writer Studio

So often I am tempted to hide out beneath the skylights inside my bright and happy artist studio. Even more often, I want to stay to read and write in my writer's studio that overlooks our woods and West Point Creek.

That's a good thing, but as creatives, we can't hide out forever. It is important, perhaps essential, to get out and mingle with the world.

This past weekend, I visited Fredericksburg, Virginia where I grew up. It was satisfying to recognize Cornell Hill and remember how hard that street was to climb with short little legs en route to Lafayette Elementary School all those many years ago. It was poignant to drive along Sunken Road where I once found tennis balls lost over the fences from the college tennis courts. We lived for several years on the next street below the college, and I made lots of friends with children of the professors. Many tears were shed when we moved away to a little town so very different from that city. Years later, I returned to attend Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) and felt very much at home on those city streets where I played as a child.

"Alumni Weekend with Lee Hall (UMW)" ©Mary Montague Sikes

I enjoyed driving through the campus and then getting to meet folks I knew mostly through e-mails exchanged over the past few years. The college bookstore carries my novels, so I've gotten to know Margaret Mock because of them. It was good to meet Mark Thaden in person for the first time. Mark is Executive Director of Alumni Relations at UMW, so I've had contact with him from time to time. A book signing was part of the Alumni events, and I was delighted to meet Kristen Green, author of Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, a book I had to buy because of parallels in my own area of Virginia.

"Margaret Mock and Kristen Green at book signing" ©Mary Montague Sikes

After the book signing, we drove for over two hours to reach my next destination for the day, the Mathews Bay School in Mathews. That was the location of a fun event by the artist and writer members of Chesapeake Bay Pen Women. These imaginative women chose paintings, sculpture, prose, and poems to serve as "seed" works to which other writers and artists would create response pieces. The result was a gallery devoted to writing and artful beauty.

"Looking at the Pen Women Collaboration Show" ©MMSikes

With my sculpture seed project.

Even though there was extra travel involved, the Saturday events emphasized to me once again the importance of leaving the studio sometimes. Hide out there when you can, but enjoy the company of others occasionally as well.