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Diane Sikes: Artist at 500X, Educator at the Contemporary


by Betsy Lewis 13 Feb 2009

“Wobble” by Diane Sikes, at 500X The life of the artist – survival job by day, making art by night (and weekends). What can an artist do to pay the bills that a) won’t crush her soul and b) might even fuel those creative fires a bit? Many find the solution in arts education, usually […]

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“Wobble” by Diane Sikes, at 500X

The life of the artist – survival job by day, making art by night (and weekends). What can an artist do to pay the bills that a) won’t crush her soul and b) might even fuel those creative fires a bit? Many find the solution in arts education, usually as teachers. One North Texas visual artist takes a spin on the education gig as Coordinator of the ArtThink program for the Dallas Contemporary while still devoting intense hours to her artwork. Her solo show, Diane Sikes: Looking Backwards, opened Feb. 7 and runs through March 9 at the 500X Gallery in Dallas.

ArtThink sends “Art Ambassadors” into area high schools armed with an old school slide projector loaded with four diverse images of modern and contemporary artworks, some by legends, some by locals. The slides are shown to a classroom full of ninth graders, who are asked to discuss what they see in each slide. Sikes trains the Art Ambassadors, recruits high schools to participate in the program and monitors the relationship between them. And it’s not always easy – slides of works by Robert Colescott, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cindy Sherman can cause some classroom controversy, which causes discussion, which may even cause some genuine interest in art in the 14-year-old mind.

Art Ambassador Lilly Watson teaching Roy Lichtenstein’s Vicki at Sunset High School.

Meanwhile, back in the studio, Diane transforms old books, crates full of them, into sculptures. Abandoned, outmoded encyclopedias manipulated with tar and technique become spherical artworks for the wall or the pedestal. One set came from her parents home and dated back to the 70s. For Looking Backwards, Sikes transformed roughly 200 volumes from their original state. Some are altered but still retain the look of a book; others became pure resource for pieces that conceal their material origins.  And where was the proverbial one-sheet handout of the artist’s statement at this opening reception?  Sikes decided not make one: “It’s kind of a waste of paper.”

Assumed by Diane Sikes

In this episode of Think from last fall, Sikes discusses the Dallas Contemporary’s youth program, “ArtThink.”

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Think airs on Friday at 7:30 p.m. on KERA (Channel 13). It airs again Wednesday at 1:30 a.m.

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