For the painter of nature scenes, travel can be a genuine muse. Sisters' Kathy Deggendorfer brings scenes of Oregon's dramatic beauty across the world and finds inspiration.
Deggendorfer's water color designs have been part of the Central Oregon art scene since she moved to Sisters in 1994 from Bend.
She grew up in Portland but came to ski in 1973 and never left Central Oregon. Her work struck a chord among quilters (she has been selected three times—2007, 2011 and 2012—to create the official Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show Posters) because of the patterning and color. Her work is widely collected around the Northwest. New work in ceramic tile is in the collections at St. Charles Cancer Center in Bend, Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and St. Johns Peace Health Hospital in Longview, Washington.
Source Weekly: Your most prominent work seems to involve living scenes of nature, often with animals; is this a conscious theme, or is it just what inspires you?
Kathy Deggendorfer: I'm one of those people who always carries around a sketchbook for things that catch my eye. I like to paint scenes that inspire me. I also take time to sketch dogs...people's dogs tell you a lot about a place. For instance, I spent time in American Samoa this year, where the scenery, and the dogs, are very different from Central Oregon. Some people paint images of different kinds of clothing or foods. I always seem to be sketching dogs in those landscapes.
SW: Your work also has been closely associated with quilting. Is this intentional, or was your work simply appreciated by that segment of the population?
KD: As a kid, I grew up in a clothing manufacturing family, so we were surrounded by fabric. I can't sew but I do love textiles. Here in Sisters it's all about quilting and fabric, and so my work started to reflect that. I love the way the light filters through our ponderosa forests and the colors of nature that surround us. My friends who are quilters tell me my work looks like "painters' quilts." I have done licensed products where they have taken a painting and turned it into a line of quilting fabric and now I am designing my own line of home decorating fabrics. I have a full line of tiles, mugs, cards, and even glass jewelry. I love having the artwork used in everyday life.
SW: What other influences can you point to in your work?
KD: My mom was an art major, so she encouraged us to paint... on any surface we could find! I bet we painted about a million rocks. In 1998, our daughter graduated from high school and we sold our business in Bend. I decided to make myself a real studio and a local framer encouraged me to sell my work professionally. I love living in Sisters. I believe in taking time away from your electronic devices to sit and sketch... Take a bit of extra time to really look at the beauty that surrounds us.
My work has been described as whimsical... It surely is not representational like a photograph. The goal of my work is to evoke emotion and the feeling of a place and, of course, showcase having fun.
SW: For many years you've been touring Oregon's farms, fisheries, and other agriculture settings. Are you "collecting" them?
KD: In 2003, was invited to participate in a project called "Art in Agriculture" in central Illinois. The corporate farming practices there were such a shock I felt like I needed to tell the Oregon farming story. We just do things differently here. I communicate through my paintings so I began to travel the state, visiting Oregon's vineyards, berry farms, and ranches and painting my vision of great agricultural practices. I went to Vincent Cranberries (Bandon), the Dundee wineries, Heater Ranch Cherries (Mehama), Hatfield Ranch (Brothers), and Stahlbrush Island Farms (Corvallis). The work was curated and exhibited as a one woman show at The High Desert Museum last fall. The show will travel the state for the next five years starting with the Oregon Historical Society Museum in Portland in early 2016.
SW: At the same time, your work seems to avoid making strong political statements, yet you have a strong personal advocacy for agricultural sustainability.
KD: I'd say my show, "Painting Oregon's Harvest: The Art of Kathy Deggendorfer," was a political statement. There's a painting of the Hatfield Ranch in Brothers, that speaks about thoughtful land management in the High Desert. Hatfield's practices have enhanced the watershed, increased bird populations and provided us, as consumers, great food raised in a sustainable manner. I'm very proud to be an Oregonian; we have a unique environment here and hardworking farmers whose gift to us is beautifully raised food.