Joellyn Duesberry brings new life to an old art

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Colorado plein-air painter Joellyn Duesberry has a national reputation and an independent streak, to boot. She recently hung a retrospective show at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (it's now closed) and now has a beautiful monograph to remember it by: Elevated Perspectives: The Paintings of Joellyn Duesberry.

Duesberry will appear tonight at 7:30 p.m. the Tattered Cover LoDo to discuss and sign the book; in advance, we asked her a few questions.

Westword: Why a retrospective book now?

Joellyn Duesberry: I'm a self-taught female painter of landscapes and oils. When I was researching whether to do a book or not, I couldn't find much about self-taught female painters. I've been able to develop my own quirks without any real influences. I've been to Peru and eaten llama because I was starving. I've been in the World Trade Center; I watched it get destroyed, and I painted that. In the book, that painting is pictured in tandem with a painting of an elephant graveyard I saw. That's what enabled me to paint the other graveyard. The two six-foot paintings are side-by-side right now in a memorial exhibition in Albany.

You're known for your landscapes, but you paint more than trees and meadows.

I've painted truck-yards and junkyards, and right now I'm into derelict buildings. One of the biggest things about the book is that it has a foldout image of a triptych, which is commemorative of the disappearing bog in Maine, which is disappearing. Because of the nitrogen in the air, there are 100-year-old trees no higher than your knee. In the bog, the lily pads are drying up. They won't be there much longer.

You say you have few influences. But does anyone stand out?

I was able to study monotype printing with Richard Diebenkorn, and he changed my style profoundly, showed me how the telling bones of my paintings were good.

What does being a painter mean to you?

Paintings are supposedly dead, but I don't think it's even been born yet in terms of painting places in Colorado that are disappearing. I don't think I'm ever going to run out of things to paint.

When did you start painting?

I started when I was five, and my grandmother gave my my first set of paints. It's been nip and tuck all the way, but I feel like a frontiersman discovering a new world. I'm happy to be here.

As a kid, I loved geometry, loved painting the angles of houses. Then, when I moved here, the West unveiled all of the natural geometry of the land. The West transformed me. I received an NEA grant, met Diebenkorn and got married all in one month. My husband is a pilot. He flew me over the red hills, and I knew I had to paint it. That's how he wooed me.

How are things now?

I'm a hermit. I work all the time. At the moment, I'm not in any galleries. I quit them all to do a retrospective show at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and book. So I have two careers now: being a painter and trying to sell the work myself. I've fought like hell to be a painter.

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