Gifts to the Future: legacy Ellensburg artists celebrated at Art Walk


“She Asks for Time to Unravel the Mystery” by Jane Orleman. Photo by Katherine Camarata

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor

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  • “Water Shield Pond Weeds” by Cindy Kreible.

  • “Bring on the Color” lamp by Julie Prather and “Esekiel’s Vision” by Richard Denner,

  • Artwork by Richard Denner and Sam Albright.

  • “Get Blown Away by Ellensburg” by Julie Prather.

  • Richard Denner stands with his assemblage “Homage to Holbien.”

  • Artwork by Molly Morrow.

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A vast array of unique paintings and sculptures decorated Gallery One as high-spirited artists from older and newer generations alike gathered to honor community members who have left lasting artistic impressions on the valley over several decades. 

The Gestures: Gifts to the Future exhibit opened at the First Friday Art Walk on Feb. 3; a corresponding artist’s talk is set to occur on Feb. 11 at Gallery One from 10 a.m. – noon.

The exhibit is a collaboration with the Kittitas County Historical Museum; each future legacy artist displays several pieces in the gallery throughout the month, and eventually donates one piece to the museum to preserve art as a permanent piece of local history.

Seven long-time Ellensburg-based artists are showing in the exhibit, with mediums ranging from watercolor to junk assemblage to acrylic to stained glasswork and beyond. The artists are: Sam Albright, Richard Denner, Bobbie Halperin, Cindy Kreible, Molly Morrow, Jane Orleman and Julie Prather.

Gallery One Director Monica Miller, Orleman and Sadie Thayer at the Kittitas County Historical Museum worked together to bring the exhibit to life.

Orleman is the owner of the fabled Dick and Jane’s spot on N. Pearl St. She is typically a muralist and said she selected the specific painting for the exhibit titled “She Asks for Time to Unravel the Mystery” because it was able to “fit inside the building.”

“This painting is actually really dear to me,” Orleman said. “I was painting it during the time my brother was dying. The title is ‘She Asks for Time to Unravel the Mystery,’ and it’s the mystery of living and dying and being.”

Orleman displayed her work at CWU in 2019 for the first time in over 20 years. The work was centered around childhood abuse and family violence. She published a book in the ‘90s titled “Telling Secrets” centered around sharing these experiences.

Orleman is currently displaying a painting in the stairwell of Gallery One called “She’s Stronger than She Looks,” depicting a child holding a woman on her shoulder, who according to Orleman, “has the strength to continue and hold an old crone like me, so that I can just reach for the stars. I wanted to give it to the museum so that it would continue the discussion and the dialogue about families that need healing.”

Lauren Otto, a senior in anthropology and intern at Gallery One, said she especially appreciated the colorful paintings of Sam Albright and Cindy Kreible, emeritus CWU art professor. 

“I love his [Sam’s] work for the way that it is able to bring stuff to life on canvas, just gorgeous,” Otto said. “The way she’s [Kreible’s] able to capture the environment and the color.”

Former CWU Librarian of 20 years Guy Shover said his favorite pieces in the exhibit were created by Albright and Denner; he said he particularly enjoyed reading Denner’s chapbooks in the gift shop.

“I like Sam Albright’s stuff,” Shover said. “He makes mandolins, he makes great paintings. They’re representational in a nice way.”

CWU alum and exhibitor Albright said his artwork is about inspiring a feeling in the viewer that might connect them to the artist. Albright primarily works with watercolor; his pieces in this exhibit feature winter scenery, the likes of snow and mist that permeates the pine trees.

“It has this graphic intensity about it, and I’m trying to find someplace in between the naturalness and then using watercolor in a little more intense way than a lot of people think of watercolor,” Albright said. “They are the same kind of pigment that you use with oil and acrylics, it’s the same pigment and then with a different medium that is interacting with the cotton paper.”

Albright referred to pushing and moving water particles around while painting as “controlled chaos.”

The vibrant stained glass lamps of Julie Prather, former employee of the CWU photo lab, have been displayed all over town, and Prather said she creates one every month because it gives her joy. Prather said she often ponders what glass and photography have in common, and she said they both deal with light.

“Light in a photograph makes a beautiful photograph, and then the light with glass makes it magical,” Prather said. “I’ve always hoped that I bring color and light to people’s lives.”

Gallery One Exhibit Coordinator Renee Adams chose how to arrange the collection, and she said she interspersed the artists’ work among each other instead of separating them. 

“I really liked the dialogue that happened between the works,” Adams said. “A lot of them know each other, and they’re all a very important part of the creative community here, and so I wanted to show them and blend our community.”

Adams said she hopes the exhibit inspires other artists “to consider donating a piece, or at least going to the museum to learn more about local history.”

Assemblagist, collagist and poet Richard Denner said he feels this show marked the dawn of a fresh cycle.

“Having been an artist in Ellensburg for a period of almost 50 years, it seems as though things have come full circle and now we’re beginning a new cycle … a new era of artists and art collectives, and I feel very honored to be part of this new wave of art in Ellensburg,” Denner said.