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"It's About the Earth: She Needs Us"
An Interview with Raw Land and Open Space Artist, Lelija: Exhibition "Spring is in the Air" at James Ratliff Gallery, Sedona, AZ, opening May 3
This year-long artist/gallery relationship is a reversal of the usual process of artist/gallery dialogue. Lelija shares: “Two years ago, I went gallery hunting and selected three or four options in Scottsdale and Sedona. It was gratifying to me that a potential Scottsdale gallery admitted to me: It’s sexier to buy art in Sedona”.
Lelija's artwork offers glimpses into the western landscape. Lelija’s mixed-media work expresses texture as color and color as texture. She works with acrylic paints and a long list of other water-based media pigments. Her textures combine various rice papers, lace, silk, fibers, handmade paper and metals with acrylic mediums. The painting process includes mono-printing, watermarks and numerous painting techniques. Resulting pieces can include as many as twenty layers. Each piece expresses unique rhythms and textures of the living earth. Lelija seeks out the interconnectedness of organic and inorganic elements. Her show includes: the hazy light of early morning, the wind in an aspen grove, the silent struggle of a pinion pine on a canyon wall or the rush of the waterfall.
Lelija has found Sedona’s ambiance energizing and the attentiveness and presence of fellow artists in the James Ratliff Gallery very comfortable. Comfort is crucial as Lelija believes a visitor to a gallery needs to feel that way to appreciate any work of art. “In fact, I encourage people to touch my work; it’s very textural.” Viewers can take a “vicarious hike in the grove”, sense what it’s like to catch the first light of morning or the fading glow of sunset on a river explains Lelija: “Part of where I’m going with these expressions is to encourage viewers to have a growing appreciation for the need of wilderness: raw land and open space.”
Some of Lelija’s scenes are literal references for viewers who have previously traveled to a locale the artist recreates, e.g., “Morning Launch” is an obvious treatment of Lee’s Ferry in Marble Canyon. However, Lelija asserts: “Most of my landscapes come completely out of my brain.”
Lelija (a Lithuanian name signifying “dawn lily” or “lily dawn”) signs her work with this melodic appellation. As light is synonymous with the dawn, the presence of light glistening through aspens, rivers, lakes, mountain vistas captures the viewer’s eye and heart in a beckoning way. It’s not what lies beneath but rather what invites entrance through layers of textured mixed media on archival papers/canvases.
The artist explains: “I build from my color memory. For any color, it’s almost like music. . . the way I remember a color pattern is its storage as an auditory message to myself.” Lelija experiences landscapes as a visual tempo along with a physical tempo. She was very influenced by Josef Albers theory, the interaction of color.
Another area of interest is Lelija’s study of reflected light on different subjects, such as the opalescent bark of aspen in summer versus the contrasting dry parchment look in winter. Lelija focuses on layering her work to produce a color vibration.
It’s not surprising Lelija enjoys cooking. These days, she’s exploring her newly discovered interaction with raw food. “The taste sensation is marvelous.”
Lifestyle is synonymous with living in the contemporary Southwest. Yoga and meditation are daily rituals which do not exclude that delightful cup of morning coffee. Lelija lives the contemporary woman artist, a personage which was the focus of the April 19 Wall Street Journal article: “Women on the Verge”. Michel Witmer, New York collector and board member of the European Fine Art Fair commented: “A lot of collectors look for undervalued groups of art, and women could easily be considered the last big group.” a rather humorous statement which indicates the separation of gender in emphasis on the sex rather than the work.
Lelija’s brand identity is her signature illustrating her bright impressionistic style, one which appeals to corporate and individual collectors, not necessarily aspens but always sharing the painter’s use of light.
Native of Connecticut, Lelija received her BFA and MBA degrees from the University of Bridgeport and her Doctorate from Vanderbilt University where she specialized in educational research. A student of the Art Students League in New York City, Lelija also worked as a graphic designer until her personal awareness of the dangers of chemicals used in printing and photography to her vision spurred her to change careers. It is ironic that the most dominant quality of her art, i.e., light, is the very quality that she almost lost.
Why does Lelija exclusively choose to paint landscapes? “It’s about the earth: she needs us.”
Studio time is devoted to painting and advocacy for the environment. She says: “I haven’t run out of plans for aspens, mountains and lakes.”
As an advocate for awareness in the use of chemicals in the environment, Lelija produces demos and workshops for groups and organizations to build awareness and suggest safety alternatives in the use of art materials. She practices what she preaches, though. “I built myself a studio with commercial-grade ventilation.”
Lelija enjoys the abstract compositions of George Crumb as well as listening to 12-tone music, simultaneously familiar and jarring. It’s this combination at once familiar and jarring that Roy conveys in her work.
For further information about Lelija Roy or the upcoming exhibition, contact the James Ratliff Gallery, Ph. 928-282-1404; www.jamesratliffgallery.com,
Page Updated Last on: Apr 21, 2013