Coming Full Circle With Kimry Jelen

by Eva Gill

Not long after moving to Bend, a poster caught Kimry Jelen’s attention. Something about it touched her and she knew in that moment she wanted to create posters like that one by Marta Batha. Over the years, Kimry has come to trust the belief that if you set your intentions, opportunities come. Things fell into place, and since that time Kimry has created 13 posters for the Oregon High Desert Classics, the largest annual fundraiser for the non-profit J Bar J Youth Services. 

Growing up, Kimry’s heart was always in art, horses, and nature. But sensibilities from her father meant ‘following a career, not a hobby.’ As a fashion designer creating outdoor clothing, she thought she could fulfil those heartfelt dreams, but the art and nature part was only close in theory. She came to understand that she didn’t want to work on a computer, and moved to Montana, a return to the things she loved: horses, nature, and art. 

Wanting to explore painting, she took intensive workshops. It was in one of these classes that horses and art merged and became a singular passion. In one of her classes, a model was reclined on her side. When Kimry started painting her hip, waist, and shoulder, it became the topline of a horse. About the experience, she said, “I went home and painted 3 horses that week, and am still painting them! I get so much from painting horses, I feel like I’m interacting with them as I move the brush across the surface, it’s like I’m grooming them, appreciating their nuances. Horses and painting seem to strike a symbiotic balance in my life.” 

In a time when so many of us feel separate from the natural world, Kimry’s paintings draw viewers back to our true connectedness with nature, each other, and ourselves. One response to her artwork has stood out to her over the years, she says: “At one of my big solo gallery shows in Bend, I had about 30 or more new paintings hung in all sizes. My horsey friends came, it was a really nice turnout. I was talking to one of the husbands who had been dragged to the show. He said, “I’ve been married to my wife for half a decade. After looking at all your paintings, this is the first time I can relate to what she sees in horses, your paintings have shown me that, I’m glad I came.” 

This year’s OHDC poster tells a story of connection. Over the years, Kimry has reflected on that poster of Marta’s, about how it set her on a path to support J Bar J and the OHDC for so many years. It felt right to make this year’s poster a tribute to Marta. Kimry set out to paint it using similar colors and horse position to the poster she saw shortly after her arrival in Bend in 2007. 

This year, Kimry also wanted to celebrate one of the horses from the Oregon High Desert Classics, and along with the OHDC team, chose Capilano, Lindsey Garner’s four year winner of the OHDC Grand Prix. ‘Cappy’ seemed like a beautiful fit, as his history with the Oregon High Desert Classics runs deep. Capilano HF was bred by Gary Henley and was born at Henley Farms just 2 miles down the road from the classics (this is where the HF at the end of his name comes from). Gary Henley was a well-known horse breeder and trainer and part of OHDC from the very beginning. 

Lindsey spoke with us about Capilano and his history with OHDC, “It’s rare to compete at the Grand Prix level on a horse of this caliber who’s born in the US, much less down the road in your hometown. Although Cappy has now travelled all over the continent he’s been connected to the High Desert Classics from the beginning of his career; I rode Cappy at his first show there as four year old, and the first Grand Prix he ever won was the Sheri Allis Memorial Grand Prix. He loves the Bend crowd and loves his local fans here, and always puts out his very best effort for the Bend show.”

It wasn’t until the painting was underway that Kimry learned that the combination tribute to Marta and Cappy shows another connection. Lindsey had helped Gary train Cappy as a foal, who was later sold. He returned to Bend when Lindsey’s friend and student Marta Batha purchased him and brought him back in 2016, ultimately completing his circle when she sold him to Lindsey. 

Capilano for the OHDC poster

Lindsey told us: “This beautiful painting by Kimry, which is based on Marta Batha’s image, really captures Cappy’s spirit and intelligence, as well as a piece of his story. I am honored that Kimry chose “Cappy” for this year’s poster. I love the nod to my friend Marta Batha, and I’m so excited to have this beautiful piece in my home here in Bend.” This completes the circle for the painting of Capilano as well. 

The Oregon High Desert Classics raises much needed funding for J Bar J Youth Services and their many programs helping youth throughout Central Oregon. They provide shelter and programs for runaway and homeless youth, as well as pregnant girls and young mothers with babies. They teach boys in the juvenile justice system how their beliefs and thoughts influence their choices and how to create change. They help teenage girls facing anxiety, depression, and trauma through a range of talk and experiential therapies. They create a support system for families in crisis at risk of losing their children into foster care, match mentors to children and youth to raise their trajectory, and provide the direct support that helps victims of human trafficking become survivors. 

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