Interview by Tawna Fenske, photography by Nate Wyeth
You know how your mom used to get mad when you’d draw on the living room wall?
Here at the Bend Visitor Center, we don’t get mad at all. In fact, we pay artists to do it.
Every six months, Visit Bend chooses one local artist to create unique chalk drawings on the cement pillars in the Visitor Center lobby. The artist also has his or her framed work displayed and sold in the Visitor Center for the duration of his or her show. It’s part of the Pillars of Art program, which was created to introduce tourists to Bend’s unique arts and culture scene, and to support emerging local artists.
The newest Pillars of Art creator is Sheila Dunn. For her Pillars of Art installment, Sheila paid homage to the high desert, chalking bright images of raptors, Native American imagery, and Central Oregon scenery. You can see her work at the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon Ave. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also scope it out (and purchase some!) on her website.
We caught up with Sheila recently and asked a few questions about her art, her life, and everything in between. Here’s what she shared with us:
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP, AND HOW DID YOU END UP IN BEND?
I grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado, a town quite similar to Bend in its love for breweries, bikes and all things outdoorsy. After traveling around for a bit and teaching yoga following college, I decided to relocate to another town for a change of pace. The potential list included all the usual suspects (Missoula, MT, Asheville, NC, Flagstaff, AZ, Bellingham WA, Bend OR, insert other hip mountain town here). So when my college friend serendipitously sent me a job opening at Bend Yoga, I sold most of my belongings and moved here sight unseen. The rest, as they say, is history. I never expected to be here – or anywhere – for six years, but the Bend vortex is strong.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ARTISTIC TRAINING.
I received a BFA in painting and minor in art history from Colorado State University. I also studied abroad in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy my junior year of college, where I had the distinct pleasure of learning from an amazing Italian professor, Paolo. He was a true Renaissance man – a painter, sculptor, historian and linguist – and I still carry his passion for art and commitment to learning with me on my creative path. Since then, most of my artistic training has simply consisted of hours upon hours in the studio.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR ARTISTIC STYLE?
I primarily paint figures with a strong emphasis on color, movement, and geometric brushstrokes.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MEDIUM?
WHO ARE YOUR ARTISTIC INFLUENCES?
Oh geez, so many. I am greatly influenced by a wide variety of art forms and some of my biggest inspirations are actually musicians and poets. But to narrow it down to a few contemporary figure painters, I adore Jenny Saville, Alex Kanevsky, and Andrew Salgado.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT LIVING IN BEND, AND HOW DOES IT INFLUENCE YOUR ARTISTIC STYLE?
I love the synthesis of community and wilderness that exists in Bend. As an artist, I crave the connection of being surrounded by other creatives and the comfort found in community. Yet I equally crave the wide open spaces, the time spent in dialogue with the landscape of this deeply beautiful place. The balance of the two is quite extraordinary here, something I hope to never take for granted.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING IN BEND WHEN YOU’RE NOT CREATING ART?
Yoga, (slow) trail running, climbing occasionally, and drinking obscene amounts of kombucha.
WHAT’S YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE BEND ART SCENE, AND HOW DO YOU THINK THE PILLARS OF ART PROGRAM FITS WITH THAT?
I think the Bend art scene is becoming more and more vibrant and diverse. But what I most appreciate about it is the sense of camaraderie among artists here. In a line of work that is so often laden with comparison, competition, and self-doubt, I feel like fellow artists in this town truly support and celebrate one another.
Bend also seems to place great value on the importance public art (YES!!!) and Visit Bend has done so much to spearhead this movement with both Pillars of Art and the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. In a day and age where the arts are too often undervalued and underfunded, I am oh-so grateful to see businesses and communities that recognize the vitality and depth they bring to a place.
Emergence Oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches $1800
The Here and Now Oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches $1800
What Remains Oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches SOLD