Dick Elliott was a one-off, a wild-eyed visionary with untamed curiosity about the world and a distinctive filter through which to process it.
His work, particularly the stuff he did after an early 1980s epiphany led him from graphite drawing to his more-famous reflector art, harnessed what he called “the breath and pulse of the earth.” It was art grounded in “fundamental expressions of energy,” the patterns of the natural world expressed in dynamic color and light through intricately arranged bicycle reflectors. Reflector art became Elliott’s trademark over the quarter century between that epiphany and his death in 2008 at age 63.
He became a frequent pick for public art commissions, creating reflector art for the St. Louis transit system, the Seattle light rail system and dozens of other projects. A lot of it remains visible throughout the region and the country, including atop the Yakima Valley SunDome and in the small town of Pateros, where an Elliott reflector installation was restored in 2016 after being damaged in a 2014 fire.
But even that is only a fraction of the art Elliott created. There’s also Dick & Jane’s Spot, the Ellensburg home-slash-art-installation he shared with his wife, artist Jane Orleman (who still lives there). And there are scores of pieces, big and small, on display publicly and privately as well as in storage.
A nice selection of that work will be on display in “Catching the Light,” an Elliott retrospective opening Friday at Gallery One in Ellensburg. The show will be paired with a complementary exhibit in Gallery One’s smaller display area, the Eveleth Green Gallery. That one, “Spot Artists,” will feature the work of many of the student artists Orleman and Elliott hired to work for their Ellensburg janitorial business.
If you go
What: “Catching the Light,” the work of Richard C. Elliott
Where: Gallery One, 408 N. Pearl St. in Ellensburg
When: Opening reception 5-8 p.m. Friday, on display through June 29