Ellen Tykeson: Artist

"Opal Whiteley" at the Cottage Grove Library

“Opal Whiteley” at the Cottage Grove Library

I have always been intrigued by the sculpture of Opal Whiteley in the Cottage Grove library. Opal looks so happy running with the butterflies in our local forests (or, at least, that is how I interpret it). The artist who created Opal, Ellen Tykeson, calls it a “tribute to joy,” and it beautifully conveys this.

It was by accident the other day when I came across Ms. Tykeson’s website. Ms. Tykeson is a local artist who also teaches classes at Lane Community College and Oregon State University. Looking through pictures of her work I discovered she had several public sculptures in Cottage Grove and Springfield (as well as other western Oregon locations). Of course I had to go find them. I have a soft spot for both bronze sculpture as well as public art so this was right up my alley.

"Journey" located at the Cottage Grove Hospital.

“Journey” located at the Cottage Grove Hospital.

You might recognize this one located at the Cottage Grove hospital. According to Ms. Tykeson’s website the goal of this sculpture is to address “hope and the individual struggle to find a pathway through illness and challenge.” Of the four sculptures that I visited, this may have been my favorite. The girl is life-sized, and raised on her pedestal her I could easily look her in the eye. Her face and gestures were incredibly realistic, and I enjoyed looking for birds tucked into the tree trunk.

Day Of Days

“Day of Days” at River Bend Hospital.

Two of Ms. Tykeson’s sculptures are at River Bend Hospital in Springfield. This kinetic sculpture, called Day of Days, sits just behind the reception desk bathed in natural light from the skylight windows. Designed to “consider control and it’s juxtaposition with trust and relationship amid the complications and joy of life,” it is full of symbolism. If you have the time, I encourage you to read the artist statement next to the sculpture. I was amazed to discover how many elements were included that I initially missed. I was also impressed with the care and thought placed into each of those elements.

A Fine Balance

“A Fine Balance” at River Bend Hospital in Springfield.

Perhaps the most impressive piece is the large grouping in the meadow outside the River Bend hospital. Called “Fine Balance,” this grouping of sculptures depicts a family troop of stilt walkers. They will tower over your head when you view them. It is designed to “celebrate the equilibrium and interconnection of life and health,” and “the relationship between young and old and the animals that share our lives.”

Ms. Tykeson’s work is also located at the Oregon Garden in Silverton, the Jordon Schnitzer Museum of Art on the UO Campus, the Boys and Girls Club in Corvallis, and at South Lane Mental Health here in Cottage Grove.

I would like to extend a special Thank You to Ms. Tykeson who gave me permission to post photos of her artwork online.

Do you have a favorite piece of public art?

Getting Out of Town: John Day, Oregon
Sahalie and Koosah Falls


  1. Lovely! The well-known, life-size sculpture at the Sea Lion Caves is playful and fun (http://www.100steps.info/images/Sea-Lion-Caves-life-size-sculpture-600×450.jpg). And the Bandon Boardwalk is a veritable outdoor art gallery of wood carvings (http://www.100steps.info/images/Bandon-Boardwalk-dolphin-sculpture.jpg). None of these appear as intricate as Tykeson’s pieces…but enjoyable nonetheless. There’s something special about outdoor art.

    Thanks for sharing her beautiful work!

  2. Mel McGuire says:

    Very nice! I like Opal best of these.

    Some other sculpture with a tribute to joy: http://www.cordair.com/eichinger/

  3. They all make me smile!

  4. cool artwork, and a cool write up. Nice job!

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