Daddy's Christmas Angel

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Visiting the James Ratliff Gallery in Sedona

James Ratliff Art Gallery ©Mary Montague Sikes
When we were in Sedona earlier this month, we discovered the James Ratliff Art Gallery in Hillside Plaza. I loved the variety of the art found in this gallery, and I especially enjoyed meeting and talking with both Patricia and James Ratliff.

This year James Ratliff is celebrating 50 years in the art gallery business. In the 1960s he owned his first gallery on Main St. in Scottsdale. For the past 30 years, he has operated a gallery in Sedona.

During his career which began with a love of art as a kindergartner, Ratliff has developed an awareness and sensitivity for talented artists. He especially enjoys mentoring young artists like Greg Heil who has displayed his brightly-colored landscapes in the gallery for the past several years. I found a show of the work of Cary Henrie especially intriguing because his work has evolved from wall paintings to three-dimensional paintings on stands. The show has been quite popular with many sales in the first two weeks, Ratliff pointed out. The abstract paintings of Allen Dutton are among the contemporary artwork on prominent display in the gallery. There is much more and a story to go with each piece of art.

James and Patricia Ratliff ©Mary Montague Sikes
Patricia, Ratliff's wife of 48 years, is an educator, music teacher, painter, former restaurant owner, and more. She is co-owner of the gallery. Visiting the couple amidst their beautiful array of art made me a little sad I was not a permanent part of the Sedona art community and able to converse with them more often.

What a joy it is to view art in other parts of our special country. What a privilege it is to be an artist and see the world through a lens of color and light.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sedona Features Timeless Beauty, Energy and Art


Rainbow Over Sedona Red Rocks ©Mary Montague Sikes
As visitors drive toward Sedona, Arizona, a sense of amazement is inevitable when all of a sudden the timeless red rocks rise up in the distance. The views are incredible. Clouds appear as angel images. A rainbow ascends from nowhere into the sky.

No matter how many times we visit this mystical mecca, it is never enough. So many art galleries, so many rock centers, so many spiritual retreats, so many trails to red rock formations--there is never time to see them all.

Bell Rock ©Mary Montague Sikes
We just returned from a week in Sedona. Although I planned to revisit Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Tlaquepaque, and more, I didn't get to them. We drove by Bell Rock many times and felt the remarkable energy of that formation. We dined at Miley's where a huge new painting of Bell Rock dominates. We feasted on seafood omelets at the Golden Goose and enjoyed lunch at Shugrues above the Hillside shops. And we spent a lot of time with art.

Art and the energy are what drew us to Sedona the first time. During a two week visit a few years ago, I enjoyed a pastel workshop and then took a metaphysical workshop that I found fascinating.

Ever since that early visit, those red rock images have crept into my artwork. Red rocks along with energy have also stolen their way into my writing and my novel, Eagle Rising. 

Something special exists in the timeless landscape of Sedona. Something special pulls us back again and again.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ward Center for Contemporary Art - Look of a Museum

Ward Center for Contemporary Art Gallery with historic staircase ©Mary Montague Sikes
In May 2013, when I first learned that Petersburg Regional Art Center was closing and that the old Butterworth building at 132 North Sycamore Street was set to undergo a $6 million renovation, I didn't know what to think. Although the Art Center was rustic and needed many updates, I hated to see it disappear. After all, I had spent 10 years as a resident artist there, and I feared the promised new art facility might never become a reality.

Abstract Artists Three-Person Show ©Mary Montague Sikes
I was wrong. Last summer,- I was invited to have a one-person exhibition in the brand new central gallery space, and this week we hung the show. The new Ward Center for Contemporary Art is beautiful. It features state of the art lighting, an excellent hanging system for paintings, lovely bathrooms, refinished wooden floors, and more. The historic staircase is still there in the big gallery and is a conversation piece because it now leads to nowhere.

The photos in this post are from the gallery during the process of hanging. I am looking forward to seeing it after everything is arranged and the lights are adjusted for each painting. A visitor during the hanging said the space "looks like a museum". I smiled and agreed with him.

Jessie Boyland, the gallery director, is overseeing the progress of the new gallery that will be the site of numerous future wedding receptions, meetings, and other social events. In addition, there are artist studio spaces located behind the gallery and in the basement that are available for rent.

The grand opening will take place in February. In the meantime, the gallery will be open to the public on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 12 to 4 p.m. Following the opening reception, the days and hours will be expanded. My exhibition, "Passenger to Paradise" will be on display until March 7.

New Ladies Room ©MMSikes
Gallery Director Jessie Boyland helps with hanging ©MMSikes

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Setting a Book in a Small 1980s Town

Earlier this week, I wrote "The End" on my book manuscript, Evening of the Dragonfly. Writing those words at last gave a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. It also offered the opportunity for reflection about the setting.

Unlike my "Passenger to Paradise" books, this story features no exotic destination. Instead the setting is Jefferson City, Virginia. This fictitious town is a little like the community where I live but not exactly. Jefferson City is the same town I used for my novel, Daddy's Christmas Angel.

Small Town VA 2006  MMSikes
Creating a fictitious location gives the author a lot of opportunity for use of the imagination. While actual places can be sprinkled into the story from time to time, it's fun to watch completely fictitious locations develop and become real in a book.

This book, like Daddy's Christmas Angel, is set during the 1980s. I've chosen that time period because it's a time prior to 9 11 when we were more innocent and didn't know as much about hatred in the world. It was an era when people strolled along streets and looked around them at the scenery, not at the cell phones in their hands.

As in Daddy's Christmas Angel, the heroine of my story is a school teacher. Farrah Ferand is also an artist, and her paintings play a big part in the story.

In coming weeks, I'll write more about my new book.

Do you set your stories in fictitious locations? Do you set them in the present time or do you have a different time period that you like better?


Monday, October 20, 2014

Baseball and Using Slight Fame to Sell Art and Books

This is World Series week in baseball. My St. Louis Cardinals are not there this year which is disappointing because a couple of missed opportunities, wrong choices, and an injured star player made the difference in the Championship series with the San Francisco Giants. As a dedicated fan, I hang on every pitch of every game. Now I have four months off before Spring Training starts in February. Yesterday as I read the art marketing newsletter by
Barney Davey about fame, I started to wonder how I might combine my baseball interests with marketing efforts.

Marketing newsletters can be helpful and often provide ideas I haven't considered before. I certainly never thought about the fame rub off effect that a video by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers describes (included in Davey's newsletter). The video suggests that photographs taken of you with a famous person can heighten your fame in the eyes of the viewer. Halpern even suggests, in the video, that just having a photograph of a famous person in a sidebar of your blog can raise the level of your fame.

I started thinking about photographs I have with well-known people and realized that most all of them are baseball players. A photo taken with Cardinals ace pitcher Adam Wainwright is my favorite. I also have photos with pitcher Shelby Miller, coach Jose Oquendo, former Cardinals batting coach and star Mark McGwire, 2011 World Series star David Freese, Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst and Tony LaRussa, and more. I even have a photograph taken on the lap of former pitching star and current broadcaster Al Hrabosky. (The "Mad Hungarian" pulled me onto his lap after a man shoved in front of me in a spring training autograph line.)
Artist Mary Alice Braukman (left) and Joe Miller (Cheap Joe) with me

 There are photos in my files taken with artists and a few writers. They are nothing like the ones I have with baseball stars.

According to Barney Davey, artists need to be only slightly famous to sell their work. He believes in building a following of 100 or more collectors for artists to be successful in their careers and finances.
Writers must develop a following of many more readers than that to gather fame and fortune.

After reading Davey's post, I believe fame and reputation will help sell your work. Now I need to develop a plan to create "rubbed off" fame from baseball players. Perhaps a series of paintings about A Field of Dreams. Isn't that how most artists and writers work? We are always inside our own "field of dreams". We need only "slight fame".