‘Our Mothers; Their Art,’ On View At Municipal Center Gallery, Honors Maternal Influences And Longtime Friendships
“Our Mothers; Their Art,” on view at Newtown Municipal Art Gallery through the end of August, features the art of Florence Dohanos and Lucy Durand Sikes, the mothers of Newtown artists Linda Dohanos and Julia Sikes-Provey, respectively.
The gallery, located within Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street, is open weekdays from 8 am until 4:30 pm, and on weeknights when town board and commission meetings are scheduled.
A celebratory reception is being planned for Saturday, August 24, from 4 to 6 pm.
Lucy Durand Sikes (1937-2017), the mother of Julia Sikes-Provey, was a celebrated artist in Brooklyn. Born in Manhattan, she moved to Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood in the 1950s to attend Pratt Institute and never left. She earned a BFA from Pratt.
Mrs Sikes and her husband were founding members of Pratt Area Community Council, now known as IMPACCT Brooklyn. Mrs Sikes, according to impacctbrooklyn.org, “was recognized locally as ‘The Brownstone Artist’ thanks to her portraits of homes and buildings from across the neighborhood.”
At the beginning of her career, Mrs Sikes’s work was predominantly in black and white, the better to show off the architecture of the houses she sketched.
Upon visiting her husband’s hometown in western New York, however, she realized that black and white paintings would not reflect the autumnal beauty of that area.
It was that visit that led to her enduring focus on painting landscapes and clouds.
Many of the works included in “Our Mothers; Their Work” feature scenes of the ancestral estate of the painter’s husband, Julia Sikes-Provey pointed out Tuesday morning. She and Linda Dohanos — longtime friends and collaborators — were at the municipal center, curating the exhibition that honors their mothers. The two quickly decided that works by Ms Sikes-Provey’s mother would fill the western walls of the gallery space, and the works by Ms Dohanos’s mother would be featured on the eastern walls.
“My mother loved to travel,” Ms Sikes-Provey mentioned. “Many of these paintings — and many others that aren’t going to be on view — were of places she traveled to. She worked often while she and my father were away.”
Florence Marie Dohanos (1935-2018) was a Connecticut resident her entire life. She was born in Norwalk and then lived in Westport until her death in June 2018 at the age of 83. She was, according to her obituary, “an avid painter and loved the outdoors, especially the beach.”
Her final painting, Linda Dohanos pointed out, was a nautical scene.
“My mother and I had been out on a ride, and we saw this boat with people near Old Mill Beach in Westport,” Ms Dohanos said. “She loved the reflection of the boat on the water, so she asked me to take a picture of it.”
The painting, approximately 12 by 16 inches, in a simple white frame, is among those on view in the municipal center exhibition.
Florence Dohanos was a self-taught artist, taking a few lessons as time went on and learning from books.
“She studied very hard,” Linda Dohanos said. “She took a few lessons but didn’t go to college or anything formal.”
“She usually worked in watercolors,” Ms Dohanos added. “She dabbled in others, but she was best in watercolor.”
Florence Dohanos also found special inspiration from her gardens. At least two of the works on view in “Our Mothers; Their Art” features views of Mrs Dohanos’s mother working in her garden with one of her granddaughters at her side.
“She loved nature, and she loved light,” Linda Dohanos said of her mother while looking at the two paintings Tuesday morning.
“Light and nature,” her daughter repeated. “That’s what she loved about her gardens.”
Her favorite painter was John Singer Sargeant (1856-1925), and she often painted in his style.
This is not the first time works of Mrs Sikes and Mrs Dohanos have been presented together. In 2007, the former Barn Hill Studio in Monroe hosted “Through The Generations,” a retrospective that featured the work of Linda Dohanos, Florence Dohanos, and Linda’s grandfather Stevan Dohanos; as well as works by Julia Sikes-Provey, Lucy Durand Sikes, and Julia’s grandfather Bennet Durand.
This month’s show in Newtown, however, is a different offering. Newtown Cultural Arts Commission Chair Laura Lerman said the show’s theme celebrates artists whose mothers were also exhibiting artists.
“Our Mothers; Their Art” is also a celebration of a long friendship and multiple generations, Ms Dohanos said.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” she added. “Our daughters grew up together.
“It’s magical to have a friendship like this, and it’s an honor to come together to celebrate our mothers like this.”