Yakima Harald, November 27, 2008

REMEMBERING DICK ELLIOTT: A favorite memory of an amazing artist
By Kim Nowacki


I'll never forget the first time I got to go inside Dick and Jane's Spot, the quirky Ellensburg home–and tourist attraction–created by husband and wife artists Richard C. Elliott and Jane Orleman.

It was the spring of 2000 and I, then a Central Washington University student, was interviewing for a job at the couple's Spot Janitorial Company. (Yes, in addition to being wildly creative artists, they also ran a cleaning company.) I don't really remember what the exact job was, just that it was at night and involved mopping.

I didn't get the gig, but I did get to go inside that fascinating house covered with round reflectors–Elliott's trademark–rusted bottle caps and countless other curiosities, and that was good enough for me.

Seven years later, I was back in the kitchen of Dick and Jane's Spot, this time interviewing Elliott about his latest showing of works called "Primal Op."

It was a great, deep conversation, the kind where it isn't until in the quiet of the drive back over Manastash Ridge that you really understand exactly what Elliott was saying and then rush back to the office to type it all out before it's lost.

I've been thinking about that conversation a lot in the past few days, ever since I heard that Elliott died at his home Nov. 19 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 63.

Elliott was most widely known and lauded for his "reflector paintings" -- such as the 48,480 three-inch reflectors that adorn the Yakima Valley SunDome, Elliott's first major commissioned public art piece.

And when I first met Elizabeth Herres Miller, now the retired Allied Arts executive director, part of her tour of the Allied ArtsCenter included showing me an installation of Elliott's reflectors–in the men's restroom.

Over the past couple of years, I've talked with Elliott now and then for stories; one about his burst of public art commissions and another on a showing of his Pendleton vest collection.

But it was that conversation in early 2007, the one during which he led me from the kitchen to his studio and I went cross-eyed looking at the large painted geometric patterns in front of me–he'd begun painting again after putting down the brush more than 20 years earlier–that I recall most vividly.

The paintings, and the room, seemed to buzz.

Like with his reflector pieces, Elliott had managed to create what he called the "fundamental patterns of energy."

"My brain is completely consumed by this–I can't let it go," he explained at the time. "I think by painting it you get it out. And it reinforces it in some ways."

I still get chills thinking about that day. It's my favorite memory of Elliott–and I'm sure anyone who knew him well, has a hundred just like it.


Back to Top