Since most of his projects take a considerable amount of time, Ben Roth was pleasantly surprised with his most recent large-scale effort.
“I feel a little guilty about how easy it was,” Roth said about his latest public work, an 8-foot-tall, 130-foot-long painting of 91 aspen trees on the outside of the temporary pedestrian walkway next to the Aerial Tram in Teton Village.
From submitting his initial ideas to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and the construction company that built the covered walkway to the final brushstroke, the work took just nine days to execute.
Roth and collaborator Mike Parris also had to build a 60-foot-long tent of PVC piping and plastic to cover the wall from the snowstorm that started on day two of their work.
If “Full Moon Aspens” was an easy project for Roth, who knows what a difficult one entails?
Painted over a four-day period two weeks ago, “Full Moon Aspens” should be around for two years, Roth said. The construction fence and walkway the painting is on hides a commercial and residential building slated for completion in winter 2015.
“It’d be fun to see it change over time,” Roth said. “I heard someone talking over a beer, and they said that it’d be fun to see green leaves added in the spring and yellow ones in the fall. I like the idea of it being organic and changing.”
Roth said it was a group of Teton Village supporters that approached him with the idea of doing something on the space, which had been painted green.
“There were like 14 people who had to decide on the design,” Roth said. “After they agreed and committed to a design so quickly, it inspired me to go quickly too. It was all super fast-track. They wanted it done before Christmas.
“Often, when there’s an extreme time line, you have to accept that the design and execution might not be the absolute best that you can do, but I’m really pleased with how this turned out,” he said.
The massive mural is a variation on a metal sculpture Roth did almost a decade ago.
“The original has black steel floating over white steel with the trees cut out,” Roth said. “It was a popular piece I had made several times, but I had never translated it into two dimensions.”
This is the largest 2-dimensional piece Roth has created.
Roth said that, aside from the snow and temperatures, achieving in two dimensions the illusion of depth he got in the original 3-D works was the biggest challenge.
“The original has space between the black and white layers of steel,” Roth said. “And the black throws a shadow on the white, giving the tree trunks a new roundness. Painting an opaque white tree on an opaque black wall doesn’t give you any depth. We had to figure out how to get that depth on plywood.”
While brainstorming with several others, “we got it,” he said. Part of getting it included painting some trees grey and leaving open spaces.
“It’s not a piano keyboard of trees going across the walkway,” Roth said. “Leaving open space and adding grey trees brings some depth.”
Best of all?
“Oftentimes I’m up against a deadline and have been working for hours and end up delirious,” Roth said. “I hate that. We finished this a day early and even before dark.”
The PVC and plastic tent Roth used will be repurposed this summer: “The plastic will be used in a greenhouse and the PVC will carry the irrigation,” Roth said.