primal op

the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in salem, OR consistently delights and surprises us with its exhibitions, and the “Primal Op” exhibition that opened may 31 and goes through august 24 is literally an eye popper. the opening day of the exhibition for us begins in the nicholsloy studio backyard friday morning, may 30. thanks to john hofer and jana hofer, long time friends of the artist and his artist wife, nic and i get to meet jane orleman, the wife of the late dick elliot, the primal op artist whose work is the featured exhibition. this is jane taking snapshots of john hofer.



jane orleman with jana hofer. john and jana recently celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary. two sharp cookies, let me tell you.


in the background is dick johnson who worked as a fabricator and assistant to artist dick elliot for many years. more about him later.


you know how it is, one can’t get enough pictures of a gathering of note. john hofer graciously connected nic and i with jane orleman as the two of us identify with eccentric artist couples who work together outside the need to be known or even to sell.


early evening of this same day, john olbrantz, who curated the exhibition, moderated a lively panel discussion of dick elliots’ work which included jim elliot—dick’s brother, john hofer, jane orleman, dick johnson (who once taught english at central washington university in ellensburg) and sheila farr, the author of the monograph of dick’s work.


and here we are the next afternoon, saturday taking our time to view this remarkable collection of Primal Op art. oh do go! bring your kids! those wild designs you see behind nic are made from reflectors. yes, from reflectors. hundreds and hundreds and hundred of reflectors and you know what reflectors do.


you see, everyone gets a mini maglite to hold between and just above ones eyes, the 3rd eye position, and you beam it on the art pieces. the art pieces literally pop alive with astonishingly bright lights and become 3 dimensional. the further away one stands from them with the light beam the more remarkable the reflectors shine and give off light.


this illumination action is for the viewer with the mag lite only. it cannot be captured by camera nor by anyone standing beside you unless they too hold a mag lite to their 3rd eye.


“it’s a trip!” nic exclaims. and it is. imagine a museum full of viewers with mag lites to their foreheads. swirl the mag lite on your forehead and the lighted art also begins to swirl and whirl. try it. you will be astonished, dizzy. what fun.


this piece is a painting and not a reflector piece, but it gives you an idea of the scale of some of dick’s pieces. to the left of this picture is a very large silver reflector piece that will knock your socks off. the ex-english prof who became a fabricator/ artist assistant for dick elliott tells of how he glued these reflectors on, from an 8 1/2″ x 11″ drawing dick elliott would give him, often gluing in 3 or even 4 layers.


well folks, so much more could be shown here, but as it was (shhhh!) we hadn’t asked permission to take pictures and were feeling pretty sneaky by now. this is one of two neon pieces in the show and upstairs is a another kick in the eyes for viewers… sculptured fertility pieces with wild paint and glitter, optic prints in the print room and so much more. we were there so long tripping out that the woman at the desk finally sent out the security guard to check out what we were doing. it’s dazzlingly new and visionary, serious and playful at the same time. tuesdays are free admission and kids get in free at all times! gotta see this. oh, and i almost forgot, the killer video. by all means sit on the bench and take the tour of dick and jane’s house with dick and jane talking about how it came about as well as how they came to work as artists together. not a talking heads video… almost a cartoonish romp thru, well, dick and jane’s life and vision.


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