“Sunset” by Wendy Birnbaum was selected as a winner. Helen Schmidling
“Sunset” by Wendy Birnbaum was selected as a winner. Helen Schmidling
More than 250 Sisters art-lovers streamed through the doors of the Sisters Library Friday night to mingle with their friends and local artists, and cast final votes for the People’s Choice Awards at the Sisters Library Annual Art Exhibit. While anxiously awaiting the results, people strolled through the library, nibbled on veggies, shrimp, and mini-wraps, and listened to music provided by The Renaissance Sisters, under the direction of Lola Knox.

This year, to everyone’s delight, the Art Committee awarded five People’s Choice ribbons. They are not ranked, but simply revealed.

Donald Wilson is a first-time winner for his watercolor, “O’Neill Butte.” He painted the sunrise scene with its russet canyon walls, vivid green foliage, and a cloud-filled blue sky, based on a photograph he shot at Yaki Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. “We took a 5 a.m. shuttle to be at that point when the sun came up,” Wilson said. This is his fifth year he’s participated in the annual exhibit, and it was fun for him to be part of the award group. “I consider myself an amateur, but I did sell the painting,” Wilson said.

Austin James Jackson’s “Afternoon Radiance” shows the often-photographed Koosah Falls on the McKenzie River, from a different perspective. The late afternoon, springtime shot captures the filtered sun penetrating the forest. The angle allows the viewer to see water cascade out, away from the 70-foot-tall cataract, rather than straight down. “It’s a scramble to get to that point, but it was worth it,” Jackson said. This is his third consecutive People’s Choice Award.

Sharing this three-peat with Jackson is Steve Mathews, whose entry entitled “Homage,” depicts Native American figureheads, wolves, salmon, and feathers rendered in ink and colored pencil on a juniper slab.

Wendy Birnbaum’s “Sunset” profiles three horses, printed on aluminum and offset against an angular sheet of rusted steel. Shot in the hills around Paso Robles, CA, the low light renders the horses almost as abstract lines. “Light is what you see, and the rest is in its own shadow,” Birnbaum said. This is her second People’s Choice Award. Two years ago, she shared an award for a collaborative work done with glass artist Susie Zeitner. “It’s such an honor,” she said. “It feels nice to know that people really appreciate your work.”

Dennis Schmidling’s “Nat Geo Odyssey” is a product of his vivid imagination and an online journey through a National Geographic photo contest. “Several images jumped off the screen and into my head,” he said. “Suddenly a story was revealed that did not really exist. But it moved me, so I composed what had come to me so unexpectedly.” His photomontage suggests relationships that are entirely imaginary. “My favorite comment came from a woman who asked me when she could expect to read the novel,” Schmidling said. This is his second People’s Choice Award.

“The whole community loves this event,” Birnbaum said.

“You get to see such a wide variety of work,” Wilson added.

Volunteers from the art committee, Friends of Sisters Library and the library’s staff all participated in set-up, serving refreshments, traffic management, vote-counting, and answered any number of questions, all in the spirit of celebrating art and community.

Before presenting the awards, Zeta Seiple, chair of the Sisters Library Art Committee, thanked Library Superintendent Zoe Schumacher and all of the artists who submitted work.

“People look forward to this every year,” Seiple said.

Schumacher reports an uptick in daily visitors to this year’s show, which opened on January 8.

During the evening, Seiple discussed the future of the Sisters Library Annual Art Exhibit with Todd Dunkleberg, director of the Deschutes County Library. Despite the dissolution of the countywide Friends of the Library groups, “Todd said he would like to see this event continue,” Seiple said. “No matter what happens, we will continue to have an art committee,” she said.

The exhibit will continue through February 28 in the Sisters Library, which is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Many of the items are still available for purchase.