The shifting mists of Juneau aren’t immediately apparent in the work of local artist Rob Roys, but they are suggested in some of his paintings — in the way he layers paint, charcoal and graphite, in his muted color schemes, and in the broad washes of white he sometimes uses, partially obscuring the layers of painting underneath.
“I think it fits,” Roys said of this style. ”Juneau is definitely part of who I am and my art. I’m happy with it.”
His new solo show, called “Reverie,” opens Friday at the Juneau Douglas City Museum. It consists of 16 paintings, mostly new works, and is his second solo show at the museum. Roys said the title refers to one of his new paintings as well as to the overall feeling of the show.
“Generally when I pick titles for a show I just start looking through the dictionary and thesaurus and traipsing through until I find a word that fits. ‘Reverie’ is like a daydream or a fantasy and that’s pretty much what all of these are, a daydream or fantasy about being in Juneau, my life, somebody else’s life.”
Roys’ awareness of the past — his own and Juneau’s — also gets incorporated into some of his work, providing a different form of layering that works in tandem with the first.
“This building here (the city museum) used to be the library for me. So you get the layering and memories of places, the layering of the weather, and the cycle of time kind of sits over everything. So that’s kind of why I keep working that way.”
Roys is primarily known as an abstract artist, but this show also contains quite a few figurative works of the female body, a subject Roys said he has come back to after many years.
“For me — and I think for a lot of artists in general — the figure is like home base, the thing you go back to,” he said.
Even here, he is often thinking about memory, usually choosing older models whose bodies bear evidence of the passage of time.
Though most of his nude models are local women, it’s unlikely they will be recognizable to the viewer.
“It’s more of a visual memory game for me. It’s more about the process of the paint, the pigments and the graphite and all the materials that I’m working with, as opposed to what someone looks like,” he said.
Roys said he also paints nude men, but found out early on that viewers really don’t like to see the male anatomy in their art.
“People hate looking at penises. Really. It’s pretty amazing.”
Though he won’t be exposing his viewers to any objectionable male nudes in this show, some of his new pieces touch on uncomfortable topics. There is “Drunk in Evergreen Bowl,” a portrait of a skewed-eyed woman in Cope Park; there’s “A Personal History of Fear,” which depicts the artist’s own struggles with agoraphobia and panic attacks; there’s “Mother Night,” which refers to a story in Goethe’s “Faust” about how good is born of evil; there’s “Visions of Lumps,” inspired by a friend’s struggles with breast cancer; and there’s the title piece, “Reverie,” which is based on a local story about a man who reentered the AJ mine after the cave-in to attempt to save his mules and was killed.
Roys said a couple of these ideas have been spinning in his head for quite awhile, but he wasn’t ready to try them until now.
“There’s a lot of ideas I was afraid of ... a lot of ideas I vetoed... so now I’m kind of going back and doing all those things.”
Roys doesn’t expect or even necessarily want the viewer to have the same reference points to his works as he does, giving them titles that only hint at the story beneath and allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions.
“People are going to do that anyway,” he said. “I think the idea is to not make it so constricting that it has to go one direction. And that’s part of the fun of art — ‘Hey, what do you think?’ ‘Well what do you think?’ and go back and forth and discuss those things.”
Though each one contains a piece of his own story — even the nudes, in their way — he wants the viewer to come to his art on their own terms, and, ultimately, do his part to make life more tolerable and interesting.
“I’m trying to make the world a better place,” he said.
“And this is the way I do it.”
Roys’ show is on view through Jan. 26.