Daddy's Christmas Angel

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Loving Historic Old Hotels - Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge - road view ©Mary Montague Sikes
My love affair with old historic hotels began years ago when I first saw the El Tovar on the edge of wonder at the Grand Canyon. Now I can't seem to resist infatuation whenever I discover another wonderful, historic lodging place.

The Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road is my latest love. Opened June 14, 1914, the hotel has all the elements that make it special including an amazing lobby that rises into forever. While we were visiting Glacier, a decorated Christmas tree suddenly appeared in the lobby, and outdoors, one of the Red Jammer Tour Buses made its way through the grounds complete with Santa and a green-clad elf. The horn blasted, and Santa called out "Merry Christmas"! It was July 25. Seems Christmas in July is for real there.
Lake McDonald Lodge lobby ©Mary Montague Sikes

On May 28, 1987, Lake McDonald Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a well-deserved place for this historic edifice.

Great wooden pillars rise to the ceiling in the impressive lobby. The main lodge, a row of duplex cabins, and a 1950s motel section combine to offer 100 guest rooms for visitors. Most views face out to the forest of tall cedars and cottonwood trees. Many guests like to enjoy the verandah chairs where they can sip a drink of their choice and enjoy the picturesque view of Lake McDonald complete with mountains and glaciers in the background.

Lake McDonald Lodge--what a great discovery in one of our national treasures, Glacier National Park. Thank you, our ancestors, for saving this spectacular space! Thank you, engineers and builders, for creating this historic hotel for us to enjoy today.

To read about other hotels I visited and love, please see my book, Hotels to Remember, or my Snapshot in Time books.
Lake McDonald Lodge fronts on the lake ©Mary Montague Sikes

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Bag Is Always Packed - A Visit to Glacier

My bag is always packed and ready to go. I enjoy travel and would like to see as many places as possible and revisit often those destinations I've grown to love.

We just returned from a week in Montana--a family vacation planned by our daughter, Allison. She loves the National Parks and selected Glacier for this year's exploration.
McDonald Lake at Glacier National Park ©Mary Montague Sikes

The scenery was spectacular--a photo op in every direction. We quickly learned that a week is not enough time to explore this park. While we saw a lot of the western side, we did not actually visit the eastern section. However, when our daughter, Alicia, drove us over the Going to the Sun road, we viewed parts of the east side of Glacier. My digital camera amazes me with its ability to capture photos through a car window while traveling along a roadway. Because of that feature, I have some pictures from the eastern section.
"Through the Window - East Glacier" ©Mary Montague Sikes
We flew into the Glacier Park International Airport from Chicago. Because of a tight connection, we had a 15-minute run/walk to a terminal far distant from the gate where our plane from Richmond landed. We were thankful to have daughter, Amy, to lead the way through crowded O'Hare. The Kalispell airport is a nice size and easy to reach. A local resident told us the airport was discovered about 10 years ago by celebrities, including some movie stars, who use the facility for their private jets.

©Alicia Sikes
 Do you enjoy travel? Is there a season of the year when you most like to explore someplace you've never been?

I always learn something new, especially when visiting the National Parks. I'll keep my bag packed and look forward to the next time...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Poetry to Treasure

Although I enjoy poetry and sometimes write it, I don't often pick up a book of poetry and read it. That's what makes The Embrace: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda so special. I opened this book and discovered a treasure.

Kreiter-Foronda has put her heart and soul into this very special volume. She went to the museums in Mexico City where gigantic murals by Diego Rivera were on view and studied them. She then visited La Casa Azul, the house in Mexico City where Frida Kahlo was born. The flavor of the possessions she saw there fill the lines of her poems with emotion. Her words tremble, and the reader feels them.

The poetic connection with the paintings by these two famous artists is unforgettable. The tumultuous relationship between Rivera and Kahlo cries out from the poetry of this talented writer who was Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2006 to 2008.

Do you like poetry? Poetry and art combined? If so, please take a look at this book.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mixed Emotions and the Changing of an Era

On Friday evening, when I walked between walls of art on the second floor of Petersburg Regional Art Center, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. Strange to feel it there, since none of the art was mine and I had never actually shown work on that floor.

My journey with the Art Center began in the mid-1990s in Richmond with Shockoe Bottom Art Center. For a while, I shared a space there with Wayne Chambers who moved a few years ago to Savannah, Georgia where he now shows his watercolors.

Sycamore Street Entrance
Old Buttterworth Building housed PRAC (PRAC Web Site photo)
I was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of artist Deanna Thomas and her son Rusty Davis. They started SBAC and patterned it after the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia. In 2003, SBAC closed to be turned into condos, and my husband and I spent many hot summer days moving paintings and display items from Richmond to the new space in Petersburg. While SBAC was located in an old tobacco warehouse, PRAC was in a big brick building constructed in 1858 that had housed the Butterworth furniture store. Strange to realize that building stood when the terrible Civil War carnage struck Petersburg.

When the Center opened in July 2003, we had such hope for its future. Artists in Petersburg were excited. Those artists who moved from SBAC were excited. I almost immediately began a series of paintings called, "Very Petersburg".
While working on “Very Petersburg”, I learned about the amazing history of a small southern city torn by the ravages of the Civil War. Some of the art in this series of paintings focused on Old Blandford Church and the cemetery where 30,000 Confederate soldiers are buried. I was interviewed by the Petersburg Progress Index, the daily newspaper, and a story ran about me and my exhibition. Things looked bright, and large crowds turned out each month for the juried show and the open house.

Then the health of both Rusty and his mother began to fail. In 2006, I have a memory of Rusty hauling my 7-foot long acrylic painting of the Grand Canyon up the long flights of stairs to the third floor because the painting wouldn't fit in the elevator. I didn't realize that would be the last time I saw him. His sister Donna Jacobs and her daughter Angie Thornton Long took over the difficult job of running the Center. Neither of them is an artist, but they made up for that lack with their enthusiasm. Angie actually grew up with the artists. She was a young child of about six when her mother and grandmother began bringing her with them to SBAC.

The plan for the renovation of the old Butterworth building is to turn it into 75 upgraded studios and 45 apartments. The project is expected to take a year to complete. In the meantime, I probably will not be in Petersburg.

Friday night was sad. Then Saturday, I got up early to head to Williamsburg for a four-hour long book signing at the William and Mary Barnes and Noble. By the end of the day, I was exhausted from the two events. Emotions, changes, stress--the weekend had them all. Now, like a line in the sand, I will cross over into a new realm of art.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Petersburg Paintings - Last Chance for Sales

After 10 years, the Petersburg Regional Art Center is closing. Artists are hosting a big sale there tonight. Since I have a group of acrylic paintings of buildings in Old Petersburg, I will feature them in the Mezzanine Gallery. For tonight only, I will offer these paintings for 50% off. The "Old Court House" is acrylic on Arches paper, matted and framed. The other three pieces are acrylic on gallery-wrapped canvas.

The location is 132 North Sycamore Street in Petersburg, Virginia. Open House begins at 7 p.m.

"Old Court House" ©Mary Montague Sikes

"Old Blandford Church" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Old Petersburg Building" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Old Train Station" ©Mary Montague Sikes

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Arts Center in Richmond Serves Community in Many Ways

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is expanding its gift shop. Yesterday, when I took new art pieces for the shop that will hold a grand opening on September 8, I was struck by the many ways this beautiful facility serves the community. Not only does it have a wide array of theatrical events, but it also offers art and writing classes and workshops for all age and ability groups. In addition, the Center has four art galleries featuring high quality exhibitions.

©Sondra Arkin from the Cultural Arts Center web site
"Where I've Been Where I'm Going" is the exhibit currently on view in the Gumenick Family Gallery there. I was thrilled to see this exquisite exhibition of encaustic paintings by Sondra Arkin. In recent years, I have fallen in love with this form of painting which incorporates colored pigments blended with melted beeswax combined with damar resin. The materials can be maneuvered with a heat gun.

In this show, Arkin has a brief history of the process and descriptions of how she works displayed on one wall. She tells about the dibond support she uses. I was not familiar with dibond and now want to investigate that material because the wooden support on which I often work makes large paintings quite heavy. Arkin also uses tinted shellac in her work--another method I long to try with the encaustics. Her large geometric pieces are especially beautiful and impressive.

"Threading color into these structures, without making the work about color, is the goal of this exhibition," Arkin says in a statement for the Glen Allen show.

"Field of Wild Poppies" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Coincidentally, two of the pieces (including the one on the right) I left for the gift shop at the Cultural Arts Center are small encaustic paintings. This is a medium I will continue to explore.

I am thankful that the Cultural Arts Center makes possible wonderful art exhibitions like this one with Sondra Arkin. What a special treat for the community.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Activities for the Writer and Artist

As a writer and/or artist, how do you schedule your summer activities? Do you try to plan vacation trips that will later enhance your writing or your art? Or do you want to get away from all of the craziness a creative life involves?

"Hotel Del Pool" ©Mary Montague Sikes
Secrets By the SeaI have to admit that, good or bad, I can't seem to get away from using any trip, vacation or otherwise, as an opportunity to create a writing, photography, or art project. With the wonder of digital imagery, creating articles, stories, and paintings has grown far easier. I always enjoy having a picture to go along with a story. Even with fiction writing, it's helpful to have reference photos to remind you of details of a setting. Also, I have found that it's wonderful to have your own image to use for a book cover when the occasion arises. The cover for my Passenger to Paradise novel, Secrets by the Sea, is a beach photograph I took on one of those vacation trips.

Recently, I've started taking photographs of meals in restaurants. After all, you never know when you might need your own picture of crab cakes or quiche to go along with the story you're writing.

As a artist, you can never have enough good reference photographs to inspire a new painting. When I made a painting a day for Blogging A to Z, I was happy to have my own photos to use most of the time for that project. There are free photographs available on the Internet, but I always feel more comfortable using my own.

What about you? Do you really take a vacation, or are you, like me, always looking?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

When Memories Are Better Than Reality

"Beach at Coronado, California" ©Mary Montague Sikes
It's been a few years since we last visited Coronado, California. That's where the Hotel Del Coronado is located, and, since the historic structure is part of my book, Hotels to Remember,  I wanted to revisit the glamorous site where the Marilyn Monroe movie, Some Like It Hot, was made. Of course, I loved the giant golden bow that now graces the cupola atop the iconic big red roof. The decoration is in celebration of the hotel's 125th anniversary. (I'll write more about the Hotel Del another time.)

When we arrived in San Diego and went to pick up our rental car, I was a little taken aback to be informed that the car could not be driven into Mexico. Although we had not planned to go to Mexico, it is sad to realize that it is no longer safe to drive a car in that neighboring country. On another trip to San Diego a few years ago, we drove down the Baja peninsula to Ensenada and then on to Santa Rosalita where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. During that trip, I purchased two beautiful Mexican dresses and a lovely sterling silver necklace that I still own. Sad that things have changed so drastically.
"Hotel Del" ©Mary Montague Sikes
"Beach View from Hotel Del" ©Mary Montague Sikes
This week, we wandered along a walkway overlooking the beach at Coronado where we had a marvelous view of the Pacific Coast. However, the beach was crowded, and the area around it was more developed than the last time we visited.

Like every place to which we've returned, things have changed. It's lovely to have beautiful memories. Often, our memories are far better than reality.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Being Away and Catching Up is Hard to Do

We just returned from a trip to San Diego on the West Coast. It's hard to be away with the three-hour time change and keep up with my blog, I've discovered, especially with a very slow computer connection. Hopefully, I will use tomorrow's July 4th holiday to advantage and will create a new post telling about some of the trip. I'm still in awe of flying from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast in the same day! Photos and more tomorrow!