Artists from around the U.S. and abroad let new surroundings inform their work and “resist resisting” during the creative process
Three years ago, Kathy Deggendorfer, artist and co-founder of The Roundhouse Foundation, heard from Susanne Kibak Redfield, ceramicist, tile-maker and longtime owner of Kibak Tile in Sisters. Redfield had a plethora of surplus tile—a mix of patterns, colors and textures — and wondered if Deggendorfer could use it.
The high-quality material was too beautiful to be buried in a landfill, Deggendorfer thought, so she got in touch with mosaic artist Rochelle Rose Schueler of Wild Rose Artworks in Bend. They had met at a Christmas party when Deggendorfer was transforming her watercolor landscape into a tile mural for St. Charles Hospital in Bend, and Schueler was embarking on a two-week apprenticeship in New Orleans, to assist in the creation of a 40-foot broken-tile mosaic mural with acclaimed mosaic muralist Laurel True.
Schueler took a look at the tile and saw that yes, the tile was high-fired, so it would work. Roundhouse had just begun artist residencies at Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Arts & Agriculture and Schueler embraced Deggendorfer’s vision of a group project creating a large-scale mural at the ranch. Schueler knew an ideal partner for the project — Bend artist Lynn Adamo, with whom she’d done a collaborative project creating an 18-foot-wide mosaic in Mexico.
PMRCCA put out a call for mosaic artists and selected three to join Schueler and Adamo for 2020 residencies, but as the pandemic struck, it was put on hold. During that time, Schueler and Adamo worked on the mural designs, and prepared to have the project proceed when possible. They completed the middle three panels, inspired by the architecture of the ranch’s historic, century-old round barn, specifically the complex geometrical swirl of wood beams supporting the conical roof, visible from inside the space.
Finally, by May 31, 2022, the rest of the mosaic artist team, Brenda Gratton of Madison, Wis.; Kellie G. Hoyt of Minneapolis, and Line Bergene of Sandefjord, Norway arrived to help finish the remaining four panels during a residency that included the culmination of the mosaic mural, “Re-Imagine.” It spans 25 feet of a wall at the entrance to the ranch and foundation’s headquarters, and is composed of seven, 3-by-5-foot panels. Four panels depict the ranch’s natural environment — aspens, meadows, mountain peaks and Whychus Creek. A section depicting the flowing water includes rocks gathered from the creek.
That kind of work resonated with Gratton, who’d recently done a residency through the University of Wisconsin in Madison, about the benefits of grasslands in dairy farming. She was researching the subject further when she discovered the PMRCCA residency on a working ranch, which seemed to be an ideal fit. “I was going to apply, and then I see that there’s a mosaic residency, and I thought, well, I have to apply, this is perfect,” she said.
In addition to completing the mural, the artists had time to work on other projects as well. Gratton created a sculpture using scrap metal and installed it on the ranch beside the Whychus Creek. “It’s a piece about time and water and there’s a little mosaic in the front, but on the back I’ve done a little haiku and mounted it on the back of this piece. I don’t usually do sculpture, so for me it was sort of an experiment,” she said.
Gratton’s haiku reads:
“Rusty, broken past
flows to a better future.
Time keeps on ticking.”
Every day, the artist would walk through the creek, its bed lined with rocks. “It’s very meditative for me to do that,” Gratton said. “Those are those moments when you’re super aware, because you’re just in it. And the whole residency experience was amazing.”
During the residency, fellow mosaic artist Hoyt’s work included a small mosaic of a nuthatch, a bird commonly found at the ranch, which she added to a “nest box” on the ranch, an ongoing art project in which artists-in-residence engage in a dialogue with nests found on the land. She typically works with glass, tile, metal, wood, acrylic paints, found objects, jewelry, fabric, furniture and reclaimed materials. Hoyt makes mosaics, collages, acrylic paintings and combines those methods, frequently depicting birds, animals, or geometric designs.
The fifth artist joining the team was Bergene, who had worked with Schueler previously on murals in the U.S. and Mexico. After completing the mosaic mural at the ranch, she devoted time to personal work based on a lasting vision inspired by totems while traveling in Alaska in 1995.
She hand-cut, set, glued and grouted vintage, hazy mirror material, rusty metal and tile remnants to form wings, mounted on cedar board. The sculptural art piece is integrated in nature, on a Ponderosa pine snag at the ranch.
“The mirror gives multiple reflections and absorbs colors from nature,” said Bergene. “It communicates effortlessly with its surroundings.” The piece also draws inspiration drawn from a non-Native, weathered totem pole made in 1975 in Sisters.
The direction of her work began when she shared her vision with Deggendorfer. “She has a great sense and ability to connect and set things in motion,” said Bergene. “I am deeply thankful for her involvement, artistic drive and problem-solving capacity. My project had a few challenges on the path to its destined place in nature. The art process became about letting my hands work, listen and coexist with my surroundings … to resist resisting. To work and live as an artist in residence at Pine Meadow Ranch gave me the new daily life I needed to create with depth and space – and be able to withstand the challenges coming my way.”
Being far from home in new surroundings allowed her to be curious and free, she said.
“I treasure every moment working on Pine Meadow Ranch,” she said. “As an artist, you are given this unique opportunity to leave your usual home environment at the front gate, search for materials on the ranch and ‘listen’ carefully to what comes to you.”