TAMPA — There are two sides to the works of artist Marianne Sihm.
One side reflects the cool climate and shorter Scandinavian winter days of her native Denmark with abstract pieces full of darker hues, blues and grays. The other uses much brighter yellows and greens, incorporating palm trees and hints of tropical wildlife — elements of this world traveler's adopted home.
Inside Sihm's small West Tampa art studio, poster-sized canvasses line the walls and lie stacked in corners, each painting containing snippets of the things Sihm has seen in the places she calls home.
"I only paint because I burn for it," said Sihm, who moved to Tampa five years ago from Denmark.
A fixture at the West Tampa Center for the Arts for the past six months, Sihm produced more than 20 new paintings that she will feature in a personal exhibition from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Great Frame Up, 3810 W Neptune St. Though she has previously shown her work at exhibitions and galleries in Denmark, this will be her first major show in Tampa. Her Florida-inspired paintings maintain a hint of Danish influence.
"The home in Denmark is very clean and simple, like a hotel nearly. It's clean, strong lines on the walls — it fits together," said Sihm, who demurs when asked her age. "Growing up in that atmosphere, if you're going to sell something, it has to be like that."
Her style was not one that came easily; she struggled for a time to adapt her abstract pieces to an American audience while staying true to her Danish roots. But having adjusted to her new home, her recent paintings reflect a more concrete vision of the sights and experiences she has found traveling Florida and the rest of the United States.
Since relocating to Tampa with her husband, businessman Anders Christiansen, Sihm has visited the Carolinas, Yellowstone National Park, New Orleans, Memphis and places beyond the United States, including the Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Costa Rica and Haiti. The trips are usually business jaunts for Christiansen, the chief executive of SaxoTech, a Danish software company. But for Marianne, they are opportunities to gather new ideas from the landscapes, people and local artists.
"Everyone can do art, but not everyone has the crazy feelings inside to do it again and again," Sihm said. "Like sports or music, you have to continue to improve. I have a long way to go before I can say I'm finished."
A nurse by trade, Sihm has been painting for 15 years. She made it her full-time focus since coming to Tampa.
Her artistic ambitions began early; as a child she showed an interest in drawing and painting. But an education in nursing took precedence over her artistic studies. Later on, she attended an art academy in Denmark while still working as a nurse.
In her newfound home, Sihm sought to continue her painting. She set up a small studio in her Hyde Park house. The home studio worked, but the hours she spent painting made her long to interact with other people.
While her work is still strictly a solo effort, she says she welcomes working alongside other artists as the increased interaction helps her to perfect her knowledge of English, her second language. She keeps to a regular schedule, spending five hours a day for four days a week in the West Tampa studio where, at any given time, she works on four to five oil paintings.
Maida Millan, executive director of the West Tampa Center for the Arts, said Sihm was a natural fit for the nonprofit organization, which provides studio space for more than 18 artists inside a renovated West Tampa cigar factory on Armenia Avenue.
"In looking at her work, you can tell that this is no Sunday painter," Millan said. "Her work is extremely polished."
The artists occupy the third floor of the three-story brick building, each having easy access to the individual studios at any time of day. They are painters, photographers and mixed media artists. Some hail from places like Hungary and Cuba. Others are from the United States.
"(Marianne) gives the impression of being very independent," Millan said. "A lot of the artists tend to second-guess themselves, but she's comfortable with where she is."
Dan Sullivan can be reached at (813) 226-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.