Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly, known for his monumental works, has died

A 2017 OPB file photo of sculpture artist Lee Kelly in his Oregon City studio and garden.

April Baer / OPB

Lee Kelly, an artist whose monumental steel sculptures grace gardens and museums across Oregon and beyond, died of natural causes Monday at Leland Iron Works, his home and studio. He was 89.

For more than six decades, Kelly worked primarily at his home studio on the site of a lush, five-acre 1920s dairy farm in Oregon City. Kelly and his late wife, the artist Bonnie Bronson, purchased the farm in the early ’60s, transforming it into a workplace and sculpture garden.

He later spent many years partnered with the late Susan Hammer, who served as a member of OPB’s board and was a co-chair and supporter of OPB’s Campaign 2022.

This episode from OPB’s “Oregon Art Beat” begins with a segment featuring metal sculptor Lee Kelly:

Kelly’s works include the “Memory 99” in Portland’s Northwest park blocks, the steel lattice of “Akbar’s Garden” at the University of Oregon, and “Akbar’s Elephant” in the lobby of Portland’s Fox Tower.

His “Lupine Fugue,” fabricated in gleaming stainless steel, is the most central and visible piece in the Oregon Garden, an 80-acre labyrinth of botanical wonders outside Oregon City.

Lee Kelly's stainless steel sculpture shimmers in the sunlight at the Oregon Garden.

Lee Kelly’s stainless steel sculpture shimmers in the sunlight at the Oregon Garden.

OPB / OPB

Read more about Kelly’s place as a key figure in Oregon’s art scene in earlier OPB coverage:

  • Exploring the world of Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly
  • The Oregon Garden, a labyrinth of botanical wonders and creative expression

Listen to an episode of the OPB podcast “State of Wonder” that featured Kelly’s work, below:

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