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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment August 18, 2017

8/8/2017 11:39:00 AM
Library showcases local photographer
Roper Cowboy by Wendy Birnbaum is featured at the Sisters Library. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Roper Cowboy by Wendy Birnbaum is featured at the Sisters Library. photo provided

By Helen Schmidling

When Wendy Birnbaum was tooling around Ireland one day, a total stranger tapped her on the shoulder and said, "I love your sweater! I knit it."

She'd purchased the Kelly-green sweater several days previously in a shop in the town of Doolin. The sweater's knitter was named John, one of two brothers who own the Glencoe Woolen Mill Shop in the town of Glencolmcille, County Donegal. She then visited John's shop, where she was so taken with the spools of hand-dyed yarn that she preserved the scene in a photograph - one of many Birnbaum photographs on display this month in the Computer Room of the Sisters Library.

"I aspired to become a photojournalist at the age of 12," Birnbaum said.

Although she eventually became an attorney, she maintained her interest in the magic of photography throughout her life. She studied photography during the 1990s at Orange Coast College in Southern California, honing her skills in the creative art of seeing, and the visualization necessary to creative photography.

Birnbaum has found the joy and thrill of photographing horses, capturing their movement and grace through the lens of her camera. She made a special trip to photograph horses and riders against the early-morning and late-afternoon sun on the hills of the Central California coast near Paso Robles. Then she wrestled with how best to display these photographs - as framed prints, or on canvas? She discovered that the golden tones of the sunlight and dust are most dramatic when printed on metal, and then mounted off-center on rusted and distressed steel. Some of these photographs are further enhanced with a three-dimensional application of kiln-fired black glass rods and frit. Wendy worked with Sisters glass artist Susie Zeitner on this technique.

More of her horse photography can be seen at Sisters Gallery & Frame Shop.

Wendy and her husband, Bill, moved to Sisters in July of 2008, following eight months of volunteer work in Peru, and four months of travel in Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina. This show includes photographs from all of these places, as well as Norway, Ireland, and the United States.

"Each piece depicts something about the life and culture of the place, like that yarn from the family-owned mill in Ireland," she said.

You'll find a bicycle at an old hacienda in Argentina, a portrait of beautiful wine glasses in Argentina, and even two of Wendy's black-and-white photographs, "Cheerios" and "Tranquility," shot with a view camera and printed in the darkroom in the 1990s.

"Through my photography, I tell the story of what I see and feel in the world around me," Birnbaum told The Nugget. "I create my photographs first in my mind - images which move me emotionally. My photographs portray how I see a world of beauty in nature, history, and life."

Meanwhile, the walls of the library's Community Room are alive with the artistic imagination of kids in the summer programs at the library, in an exhibit curated by Paige Bentley-Flannery, Community Librarian.

While construction is ongoing at school, Sisters Elementary School held its summer program at the library. Using the theme, "Build A Better World," instructor Shelly Hicks based lessons on this theme for four weeks. They visited various locations, including the Sisters Community Garden and Harmony Farm Sanctuary, and discussed how they could help build a better world right here in Sisters, or right at their homes. They made drawings, and then created paintings filled with flowers, gardens, the town, and working together.

The Sisters Family Fun Storytime group created art pieces after storytime. The children learned to use paint on canvas for the first time, and families worked together to create a community painting while discussing what they did this summer to build a better world. The children and their families took advantage of the warm weather to paint outside, creating their own little masterpieces. Maybe they made a birdhouse, picked up the trash, walked a neighbor's dog, or worked in a garden. Again, their artwork is filled with lots of flowers and gardens.

The Tween Art Camp created three pieces of art that answered the question, "What would you give an artist to build a better world?" Answer: A camera, a beautiful day, and a bright flower.

Both exhibits will remain up through August in the library at 310 N. Cedar St. in Sisters. Hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. All Deschutes Public Library branches will be closed on the day of the solar eclipse, Monday, August 21.

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