Artist Larry Ellingson’s color wheel is three-dimensional and filled with “stuff,” including lawn sprinklers, buttons, rusty hinges, weathered wood, pool balls, tire pumps, old toys and “whatchamacallits,” you know, those things you absentmindedly slide into the junk drawer or flick off the counter for the cat to swat across the kitchen floor. Simple banalities or once useful items, they become something entirely different when Ellingson is done with them. “I look at all that stuff as if trying to reunite long-lost relatives, thinking about how these abandoned nieces, cousins, uncles and grandmothers of junk could all come together in an unfamiliar way to tell a different story; a story interesting enough to make you want to keep looking at it,” he said.
Ellingson, 63, took an art class in junior high where a teacher looked at his work and suggested he give up on art so Ellingson did. He graduated from North Central High School and then took some classes at Spokane Falls Community College including Drawing 101, where, using charcoal to recreate a still-life of white objects, Ellingson’s creativity was sparked but didn’t catch. He went on to open a silk screen printing shop and then started working at his father’s audio visual company. Ellingson bought the company in 1986. In December 2010, he retired.
In 2003, the creative spark caught when Ellingson found a small unpainted wooden egg and turned it into a “Post Industrial Egg.” “I liked it,” he said, “So I created more things I liked. Soon, wall space at home was becoming scarce, so I exhibited the things at a friend’s gallery (Express Employment Professionals 2008) and sold most of them. That solved the “wall space” problem.”
For many years, Ellingson expressed himself by creating music for corporate videos, TV commercials, a local news channel, and his own recordings. Now, he takes things he once overlooked and turns them into sculptures that leave a viewer guessing and wondering “Where’s Waldo” or “is that the weeble (wobble) I lost when I was 6?”
Since his first exhibit in 2008, Ellingson has participated in the Inland Crafts Show, the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture’s Works from the Heart Auction and an invitational exhibit at the Tinman Gallery. Currently, Ellingson has 14 new pieces displayed at the Chase Gallery at City Hall alongside three other artists in a show called “Humor.” One thought provoking piece called “Find the Virgin,” shows a screen framed with weathered wood. On the screen, 15 photographs change every five seconds, including clouds, water stains and a bruise. Viewers are urged to find the Virgin Mary or anything else within these images, fill out a form and submit it. A random drawing of all entries will be held at the closing of the show. The winner will receive an assemblage card created by Ellingson. “ ‘Find the Virgin’ gives viewers the opportunity to become a perceiver, to make their own discovery of hidden imagery in natural phenomenon,” Ellingson explained. Whatever the piece is commenting on is left to the viewer, made simply because Ellingson “can’t not make art.”