One of the joys of taking an automobile road trip is exploring the “Roadside Attractions” on the way to and from your destination. You inevitably meet some of the nicest and most interesting people. This is the story of one of our recent encounters.
In early August, Cathy and I took our second trip to the Palouse, an agricultural area in eastern Washington. It is known for its production of wheat, beans and lentils. However, it is also known for its beautiful velvety rolling hills. Photographers from around the world visit the Palouse to photograph the beauty of the landscape. (see our website at http://www.mcfineartphoto.com for our photos.)
We first visited the Palouse in June as part of a photo tour with renowned photographer Tim Grey. We spent a week photographing the area. Cathy and I wanted to go back in August during harvest time to photograph the fields after the wheat had turned from green to gold and to see the harvest in progress.
A few weeks before we left the Seattle Times published an article in the NWTraveler section of the paper by Jackie Smith titled “History and a Really Good Steak, Over the Mountains to a Land of Plenty at Ellensburg and Cle Elum.” Ellensburg is located right off I-90. We would go right by in on our way to the Palouse. One of the places mentioned in the article, a house called Dick and Jane’s Spot, sounded quirky enough to make it worth a detour. According to the article Dick and Jane’s Spot is
“a home where Dick Elliott and Jane Orleman redefined yard art. It’s been nearly four decades since the two artists began turning their corner-lot home and its yard and fences into an outdoor art gallery.Quirky, whimsical displays incorporate some 10,000 bottle caps and reflectors. The works of more than 40 Northwest artists have been added over the years. It doesn’t cost a penny to view this “Spot” dedicated to the philosophy that “one hearty laugh is worth 10 trips to the doctor.”
We took off Sunday morning and arrived in Ellensburg around 11:00. We found the house with relative ease and began to photograph the yard and various artworks. It was everything I expected and more.
We saw a woman working in the yard and assumed it was Jane and walked over to the fence to say hello and introduce ourselves. Jane was a delightful woman and we told her how much we were enjoying her house. She told us the history of the house and told us about some must see items. It was clear that she was quite happy to have the company.
We continued taking photos. You could easily spend a day there to capture it all. Jane then walked over to Cathy and asked her if she could come inside and help move some paintings. Cathy called me over and we went inside to give Jane a hand.
It was at this point that we learned that we were not dealing with an eccentric but a true artist. Both Dick (Elliott) and Jane (Orleman) are recognized artists. Dick passed away in 2008 at the age of 63. He developed reflectors as a painting medium, which led to more than twenty large-scale public artworks across the country. This includes a major installation in Seattle for the Seattle Sound Transit Light Rail Corridor as well as the Cycle of the Sun at the Henry Gallery, University of Washington.
Jane is a painter whose work is influenced by her views on femininity and makes extensive use of symbolic imagery. Her work has been widely exhibited throughout Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana. In 2000 Jane held a 30 retrospective of her work titled “Self Revealed: A 30-Year Retrospective” at the Sarah Spurgeon Gallery, Central Washington University.
Jane led us into her large gallery where she had just recently sponsored a showing from the local art society. I helped her remove some of her large paintings from the wall and set them aside. She showed us around the house and gallery all the time telling us about her life with her husband Dick Elliott and her passion for art. The scale of their accomplishment was impressive. However, even more impressive was her continued joy for life and for the life she had lived.
What we thought would be a quick visit to a quirky roadside attraction turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
If you’d like to learn more about Dick and Jane, please visit their website at http://www.reflectorart.com. If you’d like to visit Dick and Jane’s Spot, the house is located at 101 N. Pearl St., Ellensburg, WA. Please be respectful of Jane’s privacy by staying on the sidewalks around the house.