Betsy Dollar, Executive Director of the Springfield Art Association (SAA), is committed to engaging local citizens in the arts in multiple ways. Youth summer art camps, adult art classes, local artist exhibits, community art projects and Edwards Place Fine Arts Fair are just some examples. Showcasing high-quality works by artists outside our area is another way the Springfield Art Association brings art to the Springfield community. A stunning solo exhibition of paintings by Colorado artist Sally Elliott, Dissonant Harmony: A Life in Artis on display at the Springfield Art Association until July 9.
“I am thrilled that Sally’s work is finally being featured at MG Nelson Gallery,” Dollar said. Illinois Time. “Sally is a friend, and we’ve been discussing this retrospective for five years.” Elliott was at SAA for an opening reception on June 3 and also gave a two-day workshop while there. Elliott is originally from Colorado and has taught at the University of Colorado Denver and Boulder. Dollar first met Elliott in Boulder while Dollar was pursuing his MFA at the University of Colorado. It turned into a lifelong friendship. As a fellow artist, Dollar admires the powerful conceptual nature of Elliott’s work.
“Sally’s work is bold, graphic, beautifully composed across multiple panels, and deep in meaning,” says Dollar. “At first glance, it’s fun; the longer you watch it, the more you see and drift. It has many layers of experience for the viewer.”
A video at the entrance to the gallery provides insight into the artist’s techniques and insight into his home and the surrounding environment that inspires his work. She resides in the foothills above Boulder, surrounded by nature. Elliott was an artist all his life; his mother and grandmother were artists. She says her paintings reflect images from her dreams, personal experiences and places she has visited. She collects things – art from other artists, heirlooms and furniture. These inspire his artistic style. Objects of personal importance are reflected in his paintings.
Elliott painted in bright colors, using gouache, which is an opaque watercolour. The brightly colored paintings, adorned with butterflies, birds, feathers and other aspects of nature, invite and entice the viewer to take a closer look. Upon closer inspection, the paintings reveal discordant themes of beauty and fear, memory and regret, exposure and concealment. Elliott notes that her compositions are generally unplanned and that the images have a stream of consciousness quality to them as she continues to add things as she paints. It can take three hours to paint a single feather. She has been painting like this for over 30 years.
Elliott paints for herself, not for the viewer. She lost her son in a sudden heart attack. As part of her healing, she began adding hearts to her paintings – whole hearts, broken hearts, separated hearts. “The human heart represents our soul, our passions and our pains,” says Elliott. Painting is spiritual for Elliott and his paintings are extremely personal. Yet his work is highly accessible and engaging, inviting viewers on their own unique journey.
Dissonant Harmony: A Life in Art is open to the public free of charge Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through July 9, Springfield Art Association, 700 North Fourth Street, Springfield.
Karen Ackerman Witter is a frequent contributor to Illinois Times. As the former Associate Director of the Illinois State Museum and a longtime member of the Springfield Art Association, she appreciates the many ways Betsy Dollar provides the community with opportunities to experience the visual arts.