Timothy C. Ely Exhibition 2014.10.01



A few months ago, while driving the backroads of the Palouse, I had a sudden phase shift and realized that what I had always seen as a gorgeous landscape was actually a massive factory producing wheat and other grains to feed a technical world. The connection—or lack thereof—between traditional landscape painting and the delivery systems of trucks, combines, and impact seeders was a paradox that I could not embrace easily lest I drive off the road. I began to see an impossible structure of co-tangent worlds: one of beauty that causes vans full of misty-eyed, vested photographers to make digital images of hills bathed in shadows from the setting sun, derelict barns, abandoned machines, and red architecture; the other—of more interest to me and just as beautiful—of metal grain elevators and farm machinery, like the diesel-driven gathering vehicles that crawl furiously over millions of acres worldwide, leaving in their wake stubble like a military haircut. 

I began to explore abstract diagrams of ‘‘impossibility’’—perceptual and optical collisions, where diverse markings and images meet at a hard line and start to affect one another. The segments as they are joined together express the parallel universe problem—looking out into endlessly deep space, and looking down at our feet at the same time. We can only reside in the space between these worlds, or possibly in these passages of pigment and line. Otherwise, we confront the impossible.


Timothy C. Ely worked in his father’s hardware store for many years. Ely Hardware was founded in 1948 in Snohomish, Washington, and Timothy was born in 1949. The hardware store taught him to make things, and the public library taught him how to think about things. It was a fertile mix, embellished with guitar lessons, a chemistry lab in the attic at home, and explorations into the deep woods that lay behind the store. 

A student of art in college, Ely graduated with degrees in printmaking (Western Washington University) and design (MFA 1975, University of Washington). During graduate school, a germ of an idea began to ferment from a casual conversation with a teacher who suggested he think about making a book. This would ultimately lead Ely to draw and bind over 500 unique manuscript books over the last 40 years, as well as countless drawings, prints, and paintings.  

An NEA grant in 1982 allowed for the study of traditional hand bookbinding with some of England’s and the continent’s finest practitioners of the craft. Many other grants and fellowships have further promoted his research. 

Ely has traveled extensively—teaching, lecturing, and exhibiting internationally. His books and drawings are held in numerous collections including the Library of Congress, Stanford University, the New York Public Library, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. 


Join us at The Art Spirit Gallery for the Opening Reception of "The Impossible Landscape" from 5-8 on Friday, October 10. Meet Timothy Ely and check out 30 of his latest works. It will be 2nd Friday ArtWalk, so enjoy a lively evening of fine art, fine dining and good friends in Downtown Coeur d'Alene. 

Timothy Ely will give an informal talk about his work starting at 1:00 in the gallery on Saturday, October 11. 

This show is sponsored by SpringHill Suites Coeur d'Alene. We thank them for their fine hospitality and for their commitment to the local arts.