Into the Infinite: The Art of Richard C. Elliott, opened at the Yakima Valley Museum on Sunday, September 20, 2009. This exhibit displays a broad range of artwork that utilizes media such as neon, glitter and reflectors and expresses the artist's personal understanding of time, space, light, image, human awareness and the world around us. In Elliott's 1999 essay, "An Infinite Point in Time," the artist had an epiphany in the 1980s that changed his approach to art and defined his signature style that would guide his work for the remainder of his career. The exhibition opened Sunday, September 20, 2009 and will continue through December 23, 2009.
It was the 1980s. Richard C. "Dick" Elliott was at a scenic overlook, and he was drawing a large detailed landscape of the Kittitas Valley and Ellensburg, the place where he had studied art at Central Washington University, the place where he lived with his wife Jane. They had been married for about ten years. Dick's life, like the broad Kittitas Valley, extended out into the vast unknown.
As he sat there drawing, he had an epiphany. All the world before him, all living things, and indeed the very act of perception itself came into clear focus as a single conscious unity—a patterned web of life, light, and timeless symbols—and he saw the true reality hidden within the visible world. Inspired, Dick Elliott lost interest in drawing his usual detailed, naturalistic landscapes and portraits. He abandoned his pencil and paper that day and began to create artwork in a radically new medium—light and pattern. Meticulously arranged dots and lines became his new "realism." Light itself—manipulated by metallic glitter, luminous paints, and plastic bicycle reflectors—was his new paint. And he painted. He was prolific.
For the next twenty-five years, Elliott experimented with various techniques and materials, and he refined several "signature styles" using neon, computer graphics, traditional oil paint, and a patented method of arranging and layering industrial plastic reflectors; these "reflector paintings" are his largest and most well-known body of work. His reflector installations have transformed art galleries throughout the northwest, and his public art commissions have illuminated public spaces from Seattle's Sea-Tac airport to New York's Times Square. His Circle of Light, Sponsored by Washington State Art In Public Places and Yakima County in 1992, can be seen circling the Yakima SunDome. And created in 2009, Elliott's Sound of Light was created for the Seattle Sound Transit Light Rail Corridor. Visitors to Ellensburg will often stop by to see Dick & Jane's Spot, an art site and also his home, which is decorated with art that contains over 10,000 bottlecaps and thousands of reflectors.
Two years ago, Elliott was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In his own words, " I have been a working artist for over forty years... Before being diagnosed, I envisioned myself living and doing art for the next twenty years. This time frame has now been condensed." As a result, he accelerated his already astounding artistic productivity, returning to oil paint on canvas and then, when the illness robbed him of his physical strength, to computer imaging. Richard C. Elliott died on November 19, 2008. He had several dozen unfinished works on his computer.
This special exhibition, which fills the Sundquist and Gilbert Family Galleries, traces the development of Richard C. Elliott's unique and personal body of work. Not a "retrospective" in the usual sense, this exhibit strives to interpret the artist's inspiration and process. It begins with Elliott's 1999 treatise "An Infinite Point in Time," which described the artist's approach to life, art, and perception. Video, stories, items from Elliott's studio, and lesser-known "experimental works" offer glimpses into his life and creative process. Selections of Elliott's well-known reflector paintings and neon work (in a darkened gallery), as well as his "Primal Op" paintings and "Vibrational Field" prints, will also be displayed. Another section of the exhibit will focus on Elliott's many public art commissions.