Larry Ellingson's sculptures forge unexpected connections

CARRIE SCOZZARO PHOTO
Carrie Scozzaro photo

W

hen it comes to the arts, Larry Ellingson is multilingual, moving as fluidly through the elements of visual art — shapes, colors and textures — as he does performance art — notes, sounds and volume.

"I do like working on more than one thing at a time," says Ellingson, who participated in last year's Little Spokane River Artist Studio Tour as well as the MAC's Studio Artist Tour in 2019.

Exploring different mediums helps him unleash his creativity and move forward. "When I get stuck or blocked on a sculpture, I'll go fiddle with electronics and make some music or sound sculpture for a while, then go back to sculpture."

A new piece he's been working on, for example, involves composing a graphic "score" from found objects, then realizing that visual score in sound. "The finished construction will contain an audio playback system for the viewer to be able to see and hear the final creation," says Ellingson.

CARRIE SCOZZARO PHOTO
Carrie Scozzaro photo

At the home he shares with his wife, Jan Wigen, works by local artists the couple has collected over several decades are abundantly displayed. Upstairs, Ellingson works out of not one but two studios. A roughly 15-by-19-foot space contains his audio equipment. Synthesizers, a drum machine, several iPads, and a keyboard stand ready, while low shelves corral his artwork. Nearby, with views of the backyard, is his visual art studio where floor-to-ceiling shelves overflow with bins containing items he's collected for use in his mixed media sculptures.

The labels tell a story of his process, interests and extensive worldwide travel.

"I have a box marked 'bones and teeth,'" says Ellingson. "There's some fish leather from Iceland, a 3-foot-by-4-foot 'splash' of molten aluminum, six escalator kickplates, a 42-inch concert bass drumhead, a triple-necked chemist's flask, and several scraps of working neon tubing from my friend [Spokane area artist] Ken Yuhasz."

Ellingson is also fond of working with copper, brass, aluminum and other metals he finds at places like Earthworks Recycling and Pacific Metals, often creating distressed finishes. Sometimes, however, things just show up on the front porch.

CARRIE SCOZZARO PHOTO
Carrie Scozzaro photo

"Friends know I like interesting looking, non-precious junk, so they keep an eye out," says Ellingson, whose initial foray into visual art was in the 1970s designing and producing silk-screened products.

For much of his working life he ran Inland Audio Visual, a Spokane company founded in 1946 that offers high-tech rentals as well as audiovisual production. Ellingson spent nearly three decades there immersed in writing scripts, composing music, and producing dynamic multi-projector shows and presentations. He started making sculptural art again in 2003, and when he retired from Inland Audio Visual in 2011, he became a full-time artist.

Since then, Ellingson has built an impressive portfolio of innovative work featuring finely crafted assemblies of found objects, often combined with naturally or artfully distressed metals and sometimes with elements of light from incandescent, neon or LED sources. His work has been featured at exhibits at Inland Craft Warnings, Saranac Art Projects, Chase Gallery and Barrister Winery.

"I've learned a lot about craft and the engineering of three-dimensional construction," says Ellingson. "I start with the objects and try to find ways they could go together," he says of works that often feel like a narrative of unknown origin, a puzzle to be unraveled. "I'm looking for contrast and surprise."

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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