Studio Tour finds favor with art lovers across Sisters


Last updated 9/26/2023 at 10:19am

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Lim Khim Katy at work at Toriizaka Art.

The 2023 Artist Studio Tour sponsored by the Sisters Arts Association left many wanting more.

"We just don't get anything like this in Bandon, where we have many fewer galleries and artists of this level," Beth Urban told The Nugget during a visit with some of the 34 artists in 19 studios within 15 minutes of Sisters.

Urban was at Kimry Jelen's in Cloverdale. Jelen, an equestrian, is an acrylic painter known for her textured, highly colorful style that flows freely from abstract to representational, most prominently in horses. Urban has a Tennessee Walker mare and an Appaloosa gelding who are at the center of her life, and she dabbles at painting.

"I get so much inspiration every time I come to Sisters (about four times a year). The depth of talent here is astounding," she exclaims. Terrence Evans of Yachats agrees. "We are considered an art town and have maybe five or six galleries, but nothing like Sisters," Evans said. "And the way it's all organized... wow... pretty impressive," he added.

Evans, a retired cabinet-maker, was on his way to C. Chester Armstrong's studio. Armstrong is a prolific wood sculptor, who has finished some 5,000 pieces in a 50-year career. He was showing tools of his trade to one couple and explaining the essence of a life-size piece to another.

There was a lot of traffic, despite the studio being two miles down a dusty gravel stretch on Peterson Burn Road.

On Sunday the weather took a turn for the worse with a steady, light drizzle and temperatures in the low 50s dampening enthusiasm. Still, a number of hardy folk worked their way around the lengthy circuit that stretched to Tumalo and Eagle Crest.

Merrilee and Clement Stillman from Portland didn't mind the distance between studios. "It's such a pretty drive," Merrilee said. "It's no fun driving around Portland these days." Clement joked: "Coming to Sisters is therapy."

The Studio Tour was preceded with the regular 4th Friday Artwalk, a staple of the Association. But in harmony with the Studio Tour a number of galleries had working artists on premises. One was Lim Khim Katy.

Katy recently immigrated to the United States from Vietnam and is currently settling into her new life. Over the past two decades, Katy has been painting with immense passion and dedication, in two very different styles - realistic portraits that depict the lives and struggles of the urban poor in Saigon and the surrounding Mekong Delta, and eye-popping landscapes that represent dreams of peace and tranquility.

She described: "The series of paintings that I have made since 2019 are my best to date. When my technique was still 'young,' there were certain visual and academic things that limited me. I needed to paint, to read, to be sensitive and get hurt by life; all these factors were absorbed and helped build the reserve of compassion I called upon to create this body of work."

She is being hosted by Toriizaka Art on West Hood. Several of the Studio Tour artists were located at the gallery representing them, such as Taylor Manoles, Raina Verhey, and Maren Burck, who set up mini-studios at Space In Common, which conducts hands-on creative workshops.

Archie Phelps and his partner, Ben Kirwin, were enroute to Bend from Eugene on Saturday when they stopped for coffee.

"Five hours later we're still driving around and meeting these amazing artists," Kirwin said. "How did we not know about this?" Phelps said in amazement.

"We always thought of Sisters as this cute little Western town. Had no idea it's such an art center," Kirwin said.


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