BayouArtist: Ricky Sikes
CURATOR AND ARTIST, RICKY SIKES HAS ACHIEVED SUCCESS DOING WHAT HE LOVES. HE IS THIS MONTH’S BAYOU ARTIST.
ARTICLE BY APRIL CLARK HONAKER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRAD ARENDER
ARTIST RICKY W. SIKES, JR. is a composite, a fusion, a mixed-media work of art himself. Although Sikes is from Monroe and calls north Louisiana home, life has carried him all over the world and back. Along the way, he’s soaked up experience and education ranging from art and illustration to CNC machining and aircraft maintenance. In fact, Sikes’ unique, cosmopolitan background and diverse education have allowed him to confidently call himself a “cultured redneck.”
Growing up, Sikes’ mother was in the military, which meant their family would move to a new place every few years. When Sikes graduated from high school in Austin, Texas, he returned home to Louisiana and started undergraduate studies at Louisiana Tech University. However, he soon realized he wasn’t sure what he wanted to be or what he wanted to do with his life, so he decided to take a break from school.
In the year 2000, Sikes signed a six-year enlistment contract with the United States Air Force, where he worked as a weapons and maintenance technician for F-16 fighter aircraft. During this time, his natural talent as an artist also earned him opportunities to paint murals and officer portraits, including one of Lt. Gen. Thomas J. Keck, who retired in 2002 as Commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base. After serving through 9/11 and spending four years in Japan, Sikes picked up his studies at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in illustration. Sikes said his time in the Air Force helped him decide what he wanted to be and gave him a way to fund his education. He told himself, “When I get out, I’m gonna do what I want,” and he has.
WHEN SIKES FINISHED his bachelor’s degree, he decided to return home to Monroe once again. Although he still has a Colorado client for whom he illustrates, Sikes found that opportunities for illustration were slim in north Louisiana. Determined to make use of his education, Sikes began painting portraits again. In his portraits, Sikes aims to discern and capture the emotional state of the figure, so those who view his work can relate “on a personal level.” Within a few years, Sikes was able to amass a substantial list of portrait clients, including children, adults, families and pets. Some of his clients are depicted in the comfort of their homes or in natural settings while others appear in more professional settings. Through his ability to meet a diversity of clients’ needs in a distinctive style, Sikes has achieved success doing what he loves. “I was able to build quite a fan base,” he said, “but I felt like I needed to be pushed to learn more.”
As a result, Sikes expanded his arts-related endeavors to include gallery management and has accrued several years of experience as a preparator for the Masur Museum of Art and as a curator for galleries on Art Alley in Monroe, including five years at The Big Room Gallery and a few months at a new gallery called The Downtown Gallery. Since becoming curator at The Downtown Gallery, he has prepared two exhibitions for Downtown Gallery Crawls. His first exhibition in the new space was a collection of his own work, and the second, an exhibition called “Comma,” consisted of work by graduate students in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech, where Sikes is also currently expanding his repertoire by earning a Master of Fine Arts with an emphasis in studio art.