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Light-Filled Conversation Pieces Fill Avance Day Spa



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Katya Lebrija puts names to her works of art, but prefers that viewers have their own responses to the colorful works in the artist's oeuvre.

"Each painting has a conversation," the artist said Monday, May 15. "My paintings tell a story that's different for each person."

Ms Lebrija was discussing her work with Rosemary Rau, curator and owner of Art In Residence, and Melanie Allen, owner of Avance Day Spa, where nearly two dozen of Ms Lebrija's works were being curated into place that morning. The exhibition, called "The Art of Conversation," is on view until June 22.

Large scale works - most measuring at least 30 inches on one direction or the other - have been placed on the walls of the day spa and art gallery at 32 Church Hill Road. Ms Allen was very pleased with the art, as well as the reactions of her staff as they arrived at the spa that morning.

"This is going to be one of our best shows," she said, "because of the subject matter, and the responses."

Ms Rau agreed, calling the exhibition "a smile show."

She explained that statement, saying, "It's great to see the staff coming in and looking at the art, and being very happy with these works around them."

Employees could be heard quietly speaking with Ms Lebrija as they saw the art that would be adorning their workplace. Others smiled as they looked over the growing collection of pieces. Bright paintings of village scenes, a mother cuddling with a child, and a view of apartment rooms filled with ladders were placed near cityscapes and even paintings celebrating chairs. The latter was part of a full series celebrating the ubiquitous furniture.

"I like to explore a theme," she said, laughing and picking up catalogs of previous collections highlighting ladders, wheels, doors and urban views. "Doing that allows me to explore a theme 100 percent. It's a learning process.

"I love to then see the finished series all together," she added. "It's a very interesting journey."

The mother of two girls, Ms Lebrija has been painting all of her life, she said. She studied graphic design, but turned to painting after the birth of her daughters.

"I would paint at night, after they went to bed," she said. A native of Mexico City, Ms Lebrija moved the United States 17 years ago. She currently lives in Wilton, and enjoys developing her skills and networking through artist groups.

She began working in watercolor after connecting with a group based in Westport, but a suggestion by the director of that group led her to change mediums.

"I love light, and bright colors," she said, "so even my watercolor paintings were bright. My instructor suggested I try acrylics, which I did."

Her artist's statement, which welcomes visitors to her website, reiterates that Ms Lebrija's work celebrates her Mexican culture, "its beauty of vibrant colors and textures." Her work, the statement continues, "is expressed without rules or hesitation."

Ms Lebrija works out of her home studio, and has joined a Norwalk-based artist's collective led by Claudia Mengel. She has been doing solo shows since 2013, when she was featured in an October exhibition in Greenwich. She continues to participate in juried group exhibitions, and has had her work picked up by galleries in Norwalk and Southport, as well as Mexico City, according to her resume.

"This is my job now," she said, "and I really love it."

After taking classes in printmaking, Ms Lebrija began adding texture and additional elements to her paintings. Today she is crafting mixed media works that incorporate leftovers from paper she makes herself. The message in such works is up to interpretation, which returns to the theme of the show.

"People sometimes ask me about my pieces, and what I'm trying to say," said Ms Lebrija. "I like people to start their imagination. I like them to work at what a painting says to them."

Ms Allen agreed, saying so many of the new works going on view are "open to interpretation."

The public is invited to meet Ms Lebrija during an artist's reception scheduled for Sunday, June 4. The spa will open that afternoon from 4 to 6 pm. Refreshments will be served.

Avance Day Spa, at 32 Church Hill Road, can be visited on Mondays between 10 am and 4 pm; Tuesday and Thursday, 11 am to 8 pm; Wednesday, 10 am to 6 pm; Friday, 9 am to 6 pm; and Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm. For additional information call 203-270-8911 or visit avanceesthetiques.com.

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Measuring just 11 by 20 inches, "Blue Road" is probably the smallest painting included in "The Art of Conversation" at Avance. "I usually don't paint that small anymore," said Katya Lebrija, who has nearly two dozen larger scale pieces on view. (Bee Photo, Hicks)
Leftover pieces of paper made by the artist were used to create the fencing near the lower right corner of this work, called "Village." (Bee Photo, Hicks)
The 24- by 36-inch work "Mother with Child" generated smiles and conversation among many of those who saw it being delivered on May 15 to Avance Day Spa, where it is on view until June 22. (Bee Photo, Hicks)
Katya Lebrija is being honored with her first solo exhibition in Newtown, "The Art of Conversation." Nearly two dozen works, most large scale, are on view within the day spa/art gallery/nail salon at The Villages at Lexington Garden. An artist's reception is planned for June 4. (Bee Photo, Hicks)
"Rooms & Ladders" is a 24- by 30-inch mixed media piece by Katya Lebrija included in the new exhibition at Avance Day Spa. (Bee Photo, Hicks)
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