Mary Montague Sikes
Acrylics, Oil, Watercolor, Mixed Media
As a five-year-old, Mary Montague Sikes would lie in the grass, studying clouds and the colors in the sky. She loved paint and crayons, and she, also, loved words. Her vivid imagination would one day be featured in form and texture on canvas and in print between the covers of many books.
The joy of painting and the urge to create have never ceased for her. In the sculpture studio classroom of Carl Roseburg at the College of William & Mary, she hammered and chiseled marble and wood and built forms in clay, plaster, and cement. Nearby, she discovered the inspiring classes of Thomas Thorne who introduced her for the first time to acrylic paints. For two years, her huge canvasses took on personalities hanging on the walls of an abandoned school where she and 11 other Virginia Commonwealth University painting and printmaking students painted full-time to earn MFA degrees. It was bittersweet for her to graduate and leave that ideal studio space on a tree-lined Richmond street.
Over the years, Sikes has had the opportunity to travel much of the world. She has explored the streets of Vienna, Austria where she felt immediately at home. During a summer spent building a kindergarten and other facilities in Linz, Austria, she met a Hungarian portrait painter whose work influenced her to start a series of portraits in oil. The pastels of Mary Cassatt motivated her to create working drawings, using soft Rembrandt pastels for each of her paintings. Over the years, she has continued to employ that technique to design many of her canvasses.
Her travels have provided the visions for series after series of work. Jamaica and the islands of the Caribbean brought “Tropical Fantasies”. Many pieces from that group of work were among the 13 paintings purchased by the Richmond Marriott Hotel prior to its opening in 1984. More trips to Jamaica resulted in a dozen paintings she created for a hotel headquarters in Kingston. Trips throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean resulted in more paintings, photographs, and travel writing that filled the 220 pages of a coffee table book, Hotels to Remember and brought her the opportunity to be part of a panel at The Virginia Festival of the Book.
During a trip to the Bahamas, Sikes crouched on the edge of a beach and photographed the violent waters during an approaching hurricane. The pictures she took that day resulted in “The Sea Beacons Me” series of large paintings and a three-panel screen. A trip to Huatulco on the western coast of Mexico and a chartered air flight to the Mayan ruins in Palenque developed into the “Mayan Ruins” series. Photos taken in Cozumel and in Chichen Itza on another trip enriched the paintings in the series.
For Sikes, her art story continues. Taking artist workshops all over the country has given her knowledge of more materials that incorporate her love of sculpture as well as her fascination with bright and beautiful colors. Encaustics and cold wax are two of those materials. She also discovered Yupo (a synthetic paper) and Robert Doak intense watercolors that are part of her latest work.