Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, January 26, 2015

Where Do Artists Show Paintings if They Write Novels?

Waterlily paintings at Claris Financial ©Mary Montague Sikes
When I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Master's in Painting, I was off to the races finding galleries and looking for available sites to show my work. Many were available, and I was excited. I was thrilled to get representation by one of Richmond's most respected private galleries. At the time, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts had a sales gallery, and I became one of their artists. I also gained representation by galleries in the DC area, in Williamsburg and in Hilton Head SC. It was an exciting time.

When the private Richmond gallery suddenly went bankrupt, I was shocked. They had sold several paintings for which I was never paid. The power company comes first, someone told me. Then, the museum closed its sales gallery so as not to compete with the private ones. I especially loved the museum sales gallery because it rented paintings and the renters almost always became buyers. I did well there and was sorry to see it go. The Hilton Head galleries did well for me. This was the 1980s, and art sold well then, I realize now.

As all of this was going on in the art world, I became enamored with writing a romance novel. From newspaper stories it looked like a simple thing to do, so I decided to become a romance novelist. I joined Romance Writers of America and started going to all the national conferences. Instead of painting, I wrote and submitted, then wrote and submitted some more. I learned a lot, especially that getting published in romance was not so simple after all. In the meantime, I wasn't painting. We were traveling, and I was writing travel articles and taking lots of photographs. My travel stories and pictures were getting published in newspapers and magazines. I loved seeing the full-page articles along with my byline.

Eventually I got back to painting and using my own photos as resource material for my artwork. By then, many of the galleries that represented me had gone out of business or were struggling and doing little for their artists. Also, a new concept was developing for artists. They were renting spaces in big old renovated buildings. One of them was Shockoe Bottom Arts Center in Richmond. A friend who had a space there invited me to share it for a few months, and I did. Having this gallery inspired me to paint and to have new work up periodically. When the owners sold the building, I followed them to another big old building. This one was in Petersburg, Petersburg Regional Art Center, where I stayed, showed my work, and entered monthly juried shows. Ten years later, that building was sold. After a seven million dollar renovation, the Ward Center for Contemporary Art will be part of the new project, set to open later this year.

"Lime Tree" at Claris ©Mary Montague Sikes
Now it's a back and forth situation for me between art and writing. Before Christmas, a friend of mine had a showing of some of my work in her Richmond home. Claris Financial at Innsbrook in Richmond has an art gallery and held an open house for the artists last week. I have a space at Crossroads Art Center, and I show work at Prince George Gallery in Williamsburg. I have a big show of large paintings hanging at the Ward Center awaiting the Grand Opening there. I am happy for these spaces.

Wall of Work - Private Home

But I have a new book out now, so I have a question: Where do artists show paintings if they write novels as well? Showing and selling art work suffers when the artist is writing. Promoting and selling books suffer when the artist is painting. Somewhere there's an answer to that question. Where?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess you have to combine the two. Which you did with the cover of your latest book.

Notes Along the Way with Mary Montague Sikes said...

Yes, Alex, that's true. Thanks for commenting!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I would hope galleries would allow you to share your books, too.

Local coffee shops and restaurants sometimes allow shows. Our photo club used to do one twice a year and in addition to my photos, I took my books to sell.

Notes Along the Way with Mary Montague Sikes said...

Some galleries do allow the sale of books; others don't, Diane. Nice to have a photo club!