Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Art Beat looks at the landscapes of aspen trees and the spaces between those trees as depicted by Denver-based artist Lelija Roy. We welcome you to "Arizona Horizon." Thanks for being here.
Lelija Roy: This is great.
Ted Simons: Why landscapes, why aspen trees?
Lelija Roy: I get asked that a lot. I have been obsessed.
Ted Simons: Why?
Lelija Roy: Okay, first of all I thought they were Birches. I'm from New England. Black and white trees. Must be a Birch. I got corrected really fast. The interesting thing about aspen trees besides the fact they are beautiful is that you see a grove that's a single organism. When you're walking into a grove, you are actually walking into the heart of the sisterhood of aspen. To me that was just so cool that I started spending a lot of time in different groves, noticing how they change from season to season. The paper white that you get in winter. The almost opalescent in summer.
Ted Simons: Let's go to some of your work starting with something autumn glory is the first work we're looking at. Why paint? Why use paint as your chosen medium?
Lelija Roy: Well -- [laughter] I use acrylic paint mainly because of all the opportunities to push the medium, push the color. In the painting autumn glory what you have is you have paint, pastel, you have ink. You have four, maybe five different painted papers. Each of which has a different texture.
Ted Simons: Is this a collage?
Lelija Roy: About a 20-layer collage. Some of the collage elements are strictly for the color. Some are for the texture, some are for both. By the time I finish layering, it all becomes one surface.
Ted Simons: Let's look at your process here. There's a piece called solstice at dawn
Lelija Roy: Yes.
Ted Simons: What's happening here?
Lelija Roy: This is the same painting. All I did was move some of the lights in my studio.
Ted Simons: Oh.
Lelija Roy: So what you're seeing is how the metallics, the iridescents, interference paints will change. This is a commissioned piece. I talked to the party that wanted it. It's a large piece, three feet by five feet. They fell in love with a nine inch by -inch painting. That was the other challenge. But I knew that light in their home was going to come from different sources during the day. It was a big, open space. So I wanted to make sure that the painting remained very interesting as the light sources changed.
Ted Simons: As we watch the light sources change and the painting change and we end up with a final product, how do you know you have the final product? When do you know to stop?
Lelija Roy: Magic?
Ted Simons: Well, maybe --
Lelija Roy: It's a hard question. There are times that I'll finish and then I literally need to leave it alone for several days. I'll work on one of these pieces probably over a three or four week period. Each of these 20 layers needs to dry before I add the next one. As it dry it is changes. So it's a process of looking at it, changing the lights. Knowing in this case I knew where it was going, I knew the colors around it. But you kind of just get to the point where you say, I'm happy. That's my first criteria. I have to be happy with the piece. If I'm not happy it doesn't go on to a gallery wall.
Ted Simons: There's one called river reflections. This is very interesting, more of a vertical thing here. Again, it's representational to a point. How do you know it's reputational enough? Perhaps too representational?
Lelija Roy: Tough question. I usually think things are much more representational than someone who didn't spend three weeks doing the painting. River reflections is a memory of sitting on a riverbank watching the sunset, watching that dance among the rocks and everything else, and then it starts with some very, very different colors. So that painting started with just purples and Greens.
Ted Simons: Like what we saw with the solstice.
Lelija Roy: Yes. Then it changes. Then it continues to change. Even as you brought down and scrolled down you can get lost. Part of what you alluded at the beginning talking about the spaces, where does the aspen start, where does it end? Where does the reflection start, where does it end? This is inviting you into that space. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm not trying to show you a river. A photographer would do a much better job with that particular scene. I'm inviting you into that space. As you enter that space, you're following that emotion, that feeling I had that beauty, that hope, that wonderful feeling of seeing the river and knowing that it was a wonderful day.
Ted Simons: Must be a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Where can we see your work?
Lelija Roy: On tomorrow evening, Friday, I'll have an opening at James Ratliff gallery in Sedona at the Hills Top Center from 5 to 9. I'll be doing an artist talk at 6. They have about of my paintings. I invite everyone to come and join my aspen world.
Ted Simons: Again, it's wonderful work. It's good speaking with you. I love speaking with artists, finding out what they are thinking. Half the time they enjoy talking about it.
Lelija Roy: I always enjoy talking about it.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.
Lelija Roy: Thank you.