Meet Liz Collins. Collins is one of over 35 artists showing at the annual Artisans Festival, Friday & Saturday, November 28 & 29 at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center. This holiday tradition is one of the longest running festivals in Nevada County and is known for showcasing the exceptional work of regional artisans. This year’s festival takes the term “Art Party” to another level with dozens of new artists, installation art displays, performance art, live music, children’s holiday art activities, and a rustic, bohemian Acoustic Café and Wine Bar. Tickets $3, $5 Weekend Pass, Children 15 and under free. Daily hours are 10am-5pm.
Despite compelling argument that she should become an architect, Collins graduated from The University of Colorado with a Bachelors of Fine Art and a lot of “tsssk tsssk’s” from the sidelines. Noting her artwork’s odd perspective with walls and windows out of plumb the consensus was that it was just as well she didn’t follow their advice. It is exactly this off-kilter look that has become the signature style of her work.
Collins began by doing serigraphs (silkscreen prints), quickly moving into oil pastels, and then onto mixed media, always retaining a certain whimsy to her work. Evident in every medium is her familiar infusion of life and movement in all things. Breaking up the usual planes of color with maps, sheet music and poetry keeps her work dynamic, never stale or static.
More recently her fascination with maps and travel has added another dimension to her work. “Travelling the world I have realized how I love to watch people in their every-day activities, whether it be selling chai on the bustling street corner, or riding a bicycle through inconceivable traffic. I love to watch their limbs, their movement, the subtle ways they hold themselves, their feet, their hands. Using maps, or poetry or music, to me, adds an element of surprise as well as a sense of place.”
What was the art background of your childhood home?
My parents didn’t talk a lot about art though they did take us to museums in NYC. They had one artist whose original art was in our home. My mom would also buy original art in galleries when we’d go to the Jersey shore.
I remember the romance of finding a set of hard pastels in a wooden box in my Gmas attic.
When did you recognize a special talent or interest in art? Was it a moment or a process? Can you remember a specific setting?
I remember it as a moment in the 4th grade. I had always liked to draw, but Laney Crawford in 4th grade was really good and could draw anything and she showed me how to “draw what you see.” It was like a Zen moment of realization. Suddenly, I realized I could draw anything. I’ve always loved art; the smell, the look, being alone, the doing of it.
What did your parents say when you told them you were going to be an artist? Was it a moment or a process? Can you remember the specific setting?
My parents wanted me to be an architect because that was the practical thing. They appreciated my talent, but didn’t think I could make a living at it. Then, in my last year of high school, my lifelong friend, Emmy, said “of course you’re going to major in art.” And, that was that. They got used to the idea.
Who or what were your early creative inspirations?
Laney Crawford in 4th grade. My friend and co-worker, Ann, in Boulder, CO when I was a young sign painter. She started actually selling silk screen art. I thought, if she can do it, I can do it so I did.
Artistically, Thomas McKnight who was a silk screener. I saw his stuff in NYC gallery and loved it. He painted interiors looking out into the moon and night sky. They were happy and bright. Also, Thomas Hart Benton of the 1930s. He painted rolling landscapes and motion.
Which artists are you following currently?
Nobody, really. Maybe modern artists. Contemporary paintings. I am inspired by the new look of contemporary, modern art.
What, besides the obvious, do you like about selling your art?
I love talking to people about my art. I like hearing what people see in my work. It’s interesting what it brings out in people.
What do you think is the role of art in a society?
Art has the capability to make people happy. It brings out good feelings. It brings out deep feelings in people. It has the ability to revives them and add passion to their lives.
What is the funkiest job you’ve taken to support your art?
I am lucky enough to have always made my living as an artist.
Anything particularly interesting or striking about your story that you’d like to share?
My current work celebrates my life and my life as a traveler. The maps, the nostalgia they hold for the days of map travel, bring depth and a shared appreciation of how the world is changing. Maps evoke both adventure and safety because they indicate you are on an unknown road and actually tell you where to go.
I honor and appreciate map makers and the beauty they put to their task.