by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Kathy Deggendorfer’s popular watercolors have been called “whimsical, happy and vibrant,” and her upcoming exhibit at the High Desert Museum, Painting Oregon’s Harvest, is best described as delicious.
For the last several years Deggendorfer has been travelling throughout Oregon capturing scenes that revolve around locally grown food. Included are images from Eastern Oregon ranches, Willamette Valley vineyards and berry farms, Hood River orchards, costal fishing ports and even a distillery in Central Oregon.
The result is a collection of paintings that will make your mouth water; brilliant marionberries from Stahlbush Island Farms, Rocky Knoll pears ripening on the tree, sheep and cattle grazing in the fields, salmon and crab from Fishhawk Fisheries in Astoria, plus a bounty of other homegrown delights from around the state.
“The whole concept of the series is about celebrating Oregon farmers,” Deggendorfer said. “A few years ago I got invited to stay with a farm family in Illinois and paint, and [saw that Illinois] had completely given over to corporate farming. It was a shock to the system,” she explained. “I decided I needed to use my art to tell the story of Oregon farming, of our love of the land…and I came up with a concept to paint a 12 course meal.”
Deggendorfer began her tour of Oregon with a trip to the vineyards in the Dundee, Oregon area to paint plein air at Sokol Blosser and Red Ridge Farms. “I painted for three days and the wine makers took us out to dinner; we sat around harvest table and talked about how each of us came to this passion… part of my whole idea is to talk to people, to get the essence of [why they farm].”
Other trips included painting peaches in Kimberly, cranberries in Bandon, cherries in Hood River and sheep in Shaniko. “Mostly my criteria was that it had to be farms that were actually producing things people could buy. The concept was I would help them tell the story through my art.”
Drawn to the stories of the people and the land, she found one of the most resonating experiences came from her trip to the Gilkerson Orchards in Hood River. “Patty Gilkerson is of Japanese descent and [shared that] she had been sent to an internment camp during World War II, but she still came back to Hood River after that experience and raised cherries with her son. Often great stories go hand in hand with the landscape.”
Deggendorfer has found plenty of inspiration while traveling all over the state. “The trip to Bandon to paint cranberries was a visual explosion,” she exclaimed. “That blue sky over the coastal range, and the coastal pines and acres of brilliant floating red cranberries was real eye candy. It was so fun to go down there.”
Her piece on the cover of Cascade A&E, painted at the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko, was created using the color pallet of the yarn the ranch makes each year; custom colored to reflect the ranch’s unique high-desert landscape, the wool is specially milled without harsh chemicals or extreme temperatures and lends to a rich range of 29 different colors.
An opening reception with Deggendorfer will be held at the Museum on Thursday, August 28 at 6pm and is free to the public.
In addition to the art exhibition, a culinary event will be a special treat. The Museum will host Deggendorfer and Chef TR McCrystal from Jen’s Garden in Sisters. The Harvest Dinner, slated for Saturday, October 4, will honor the farmers and ranchers involved in the new exhibit.
“This dinner and exhibition is a rare opportunity to increase exposure for the farm-to-market movement and help these local producers thrive,” said Faith Powell, exhibit curator. “Kathy is very passionate about promoting the farms and ranches of Oregon, and TR McCrystal is passionate about cooking with local ingredients. It’s going to be amazing.”
The Harvest Dinner is expected to sell out fast. See the Museum website for more information. www.highdesertmuseum.org/harvest-dinner