Katmandu Calling

For artist Terry Brewer, two years in Nepal turned into a lifetime of memories, endless inspiration and—ultimately—an art exhibition
Cholatse with Makalu, Oil on canvas, 60×72, 2017

WHEN ARTIST Terry Brewer returned from Nepal in 2010 after a two-year stint building houses with Habitat for Humanity, he did so with over 10,000 photos in tow. He’d first visited the Himalayan country 10 years earlier in 1998, and he knew, even then, that he’d be back. He felt at home there. He was inspired by the mountains, the people, the culture—so much so that on his second visit, every minute he wasn’t building houses he spent exploring, hiking and documenting his travels with a camera and by sketching portraits in a small studio space he rented in Katmandu.

The sketches Terry began in Nepal began to assume added dimensions once he got back to the States, emerging as a series of portraits and landscapes drawn from the artist’s giant cache of photos. Then in 2015, Terry received the news no one wants to hear: He had cancer—non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Maoist 1, Oil on panel, 11×14, 2014 From the collection of Jeff Williams and Kelley Cooper

But rather than let the diagnosis slow him down, Terry threw himself into his work. “Ironically, that gave me all this free time while I was recovering in between treatments,” Terry says. “I was just kind of like, Well, I’m gonna paint what I can. I got the space, and I got the time, and I’m just going to make the most of it. A few years later, I’ve got seven of these big ones done and a whole series of portraits that I’d already done and some other landscapes, and it just kind of turned into a show.”

Now Terry’s cancer is in remission, and his show, Paintings by Terry Brewer: Nepal Maa Dui Barsa Base (Two Years in Nepal, 2008–2010) is being exhibited at the Butler Center’s Underground Gallery in Little Rock. But the artist says Nepal is far from finished providing him with inspiration. He’s got about 60 more paintings in mind, inspired by his previous visits, but says he’d still love to make another trip.

“If I never go back, I still won’t run out of good reference,” he says, “but it would be nice just to get back out there and take another look.”

Paintings by Terry Brewer: Nepal Maa Dui Barsa Base (Two Years in Nepal, 2008–2010) is on display at the Butler Center’s Underground Gallery now through March 30.