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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment October 21, 2018

1/30/2018 2:31:00 PM
People's Choice winners named at library exhibit
“Blue Hour Reflection at Broken Top” by Austin James Jackson earned People’s Choice honors at the Sisters Library’s annual exhibit last week.  photo provided
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“Blue Hour Reflection at Broken Top” by Austin James Jackson earned People’s Choice honors at the Sisters Library’s annual exhibit last week. photo provided

By Helen Schmidling

The Sisters Library Annual Art Exhibit presented its People's Choice Awards at a reception at the library on Friday evening.

As the names of four award-winners were announced, from the far corner, by the shelved books on hold, came a sudden round of celebratory back-slapping and general excitement.

Steve Mathews, a 75-year-old retired art teacher and counselor, and his young friend and part-time Tollgate neighbor 19-year-old Austin James Jackson, outdoor photographer and student at Portland State, had both been named.

"We figure that, at 75 and 19, we're the oldest and the youngest winners," said Mathews.

Mathews won for "Spirit," a carved and colored slab of maple with an illustration depicting ravens, fish, and Native American faces on a juniper slab. It's one of two pieces he entered in this year's library exhibit. The second is named "Totem."

Jackson entered "Blue Hour Reflection at Broken Top," a photograph on metal of Broken Top and No Name Lake, shot in the "blue hour," that hour after sunset but before it's pitch dark.

The other two award-winners are Mike Stasko and collaborators Wendy Birnbaum and Susie Zeitner. All are from Sisters.

Stasko's winner, "Juniper Flats," is an original drawing made with soft colored pencils on rag board, and Birnbaum and Zeitner collaborated on "Morning Ride," a photograph on metal enhanced with glass.

This is the first year that Stasko and Jackson have entered the annual exhibit, sponsored by Friends of the Sisters Library (FOSL). Birnbaum and Mathews have entered many times, and Mathews is a previous award-winner.

Jackson is a self-taught landscape photographer, an outdoor enthusiast for as long as he can remember. His passion in photography came about right after high school, when he was gifted a camera and began photographing nature. He shot "Blue Hour" on a chilly November camping trip with his girlfriend, Haley Moor.

"It was about 20 degrees with winds of 40 miles per hour," he said.

Cold? You bet! The mountain seems to be floating on a glassy mirror, set in a star-spangled sky.

"It was right after the first good snow of this winter," he said. "The lake is normally accessed from Todd Lake Road near Bend, but in winter, when that closes, you can access it from a 13-mile round-trip hike from Three Creeks (sic) Lake. Normally, the lake is pretty busy with people, but in winter, it is empty, so we had the lake to ourselves. The light on the mountain was provided by a three-quarters moon."

Jackson shot the same scene at sunrise the next morning, and that image can be viewed on his website His work is also available at Nature's Bling in Sisters.

"This (award) was totally unexpected," said Stasko. "There are any number of outstanding pieces that could have won. I picked this one because I've sold a lot of reproductions, and because I think it touches people."

In his "Sunset Series," Stasko explores the changing effect of light over distance, particularly at sunset. The locales are recognizable to those who travel or fish the Deschutes River.

Stasko has studied fine arts with an emphasis on drawing and intaglio and serigraphy printmaking techniques. But as a colored-pencil artist, he is completely self-taught.

"Morning Ride" is one of several photographs Birnbaum created while attending a photography workshop called "Dust 'n Light," in the hills near Paso Robles, California. After trying to present this series on paper or on canvas, she arrived at the ideal format - metal prints in a golden tone, off-center mounted on distressed and rusted steel plates. This photograph was further enhanced with a three-dimensional application of glass rods and frit, and kiln-fired. Birnbaum worked with Sisters artist Susie Zeitner on this technique.

"The creative collaboration process is so enriching," Birnbaum said.

"This (award) was just icing on the cake," she said of her honor. "This show, in particular, is such a highlight, because it is open to anybody."

Zeitner also has two works of her own in the library exhibit.

Mathews obtained his undergraduate degree in art at Montana State University, and an education degree at Eastern Washington University, followed by a master's from Lewis & Clark College. After teaching art for several years in the Beaverton School District, he went on to get a doctorate in educational foundations from Oregon State, and then opened an alternative school for high-risk kids called Merlo Station, within the Beaverton District.

For the past 15 years, he's volunteered in all art classes at Sisters High School.

His award-winner is a juniper slab finely planed to show off its natural grain, complete with knots and swirls. He drew the image with felt-tip pen, right down to the tiny branch ends. He filled it in with Prismacolor pencil. Embedded within the tree are Native American images, ravens and fish.

More work by Stasko, Birnbaum, Mathews and Zeitner can be seen at Sisters Gallery & Frame Shop.

The Sisters Library Annual Art Exhibit continues through February 23. Some of the items, both two-and three-dimensional artworks, are still available for purchase, and FOSL receives 10 percent of the sales price. Library hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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