Since childhood, Sunti Pichetchaiyakul displayed an incredible capacity to implement something spiritual in his artwork. This was not unexpected of Sunti, however. He was recognized in his village in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand as the boy with the birthmark of the third eye on his forehead. Others identified Sunti as the boy whose mother had undergone surgery to prevent childbirth only four years before he was born. Thus, a spiritual gift was considered only natural from the boy with a miracle birth. Inescapably, Sunti’s greatest challenge in Thailand was not proving his remarkable artistic ability, but rather penetrating the cultural barricades that disregarded young talent.
While still undiscovered in his home country, Sunti met his American wife, Erica during her travels through Asia. With a background in counseling psychology, Erica’s first taste of extreme poverty in Cambodia, Myanmar, and in parts of Thailand ignited a human obligation in Erica to contend with issues such as domestic violence and child abuse in South Asia. And, after meeting Sunti in Prachinburi, Thailand, Erica was not only determined to share Sunti’s unacknowledged gift with the world, but she also felt that by combining both of their talents – art, spirituality, and social work, they could bring more value and meaning to art in a way that could potentially benefit underprivileged communities. Indeed, art not only raises awareness, explores universal communication and generates revenue for social causes, but art is also naturally therapeutic and can serve as employment in poor villages.
Sunti and Erica married in 2008 and relocated to the Flathead Valley, Montana, where Erica’s parents had recently moved to from Connecticut. They were not only enthralled with the beauty of Montana, but they also treasured Montana for its kind and friendly people. Sunti began his bronze, “Legends of the Americas” collection, commemorating historical Native American heroes, as well as his collection, “Legends of the World” that honors spiritual leaders. Sunti attended invitational art exhibitions throughout the United States and in Canada and received awards for his sculptures, which not only looked real, but emanated a “presence” that brought his work to life.
When news of Sunti’s success in North America reached the Thai Kingdom, his reputation as the “Sculptor of the Spirit” ignited, and Sunti finally became accepted as the finest sculptor in Thailand. Together, Sunti and Erica are currently working with a team of experts in archaeology, history, and Buddhist philosophy, to uncover the face of Buddha. They plan to create a monument from Sunti’s Buddha sculpture in Thailand, which will serve as an establishment for contending with social issues through art therapy and the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path.
In 2013, Sunti and Erica Pichetchaiyakul purchased the first Methodist church of Whitefish, Montana built in 1905. Their vision for the gallery was to share their passion for foreign cultures and old masters fine art while bringing to Whitefish art of the highest quality from around the globe.
Erica’s father, Tony Figueiredo – a fourth-generation stone mason and general contractor originally from Portugal, remodeled the neglected, deteriorating church and created a unique and exquisite landmark, while carefully preserving the history of the building.
Although the Methodist church was built over a century ago to honor the Holy Spirit, today the universal spirit prevails through the art of celebrated artists from North America, Europe, and Asia. Indeed, Sunti World Art Gallery proudly represents internationally acclaimed masters of fine art, nearly all of whom were born in a different part of the world. The gallery’s award-winning painters work in oil, acrylic, pastel, and charcoal and adhere to old masters techniques, from authentic en plein-air impressionism, to exceptionally detailed hyper-realism. Their collection also includes semi-petrified tropical wood consoles, Khmer Cambodian wood carvings, and intricate hand-embroidered zardozis from India.