By Christopher J. Miller | Above photo: Self – Rebecca Collins ~
East Dallas artist Rebecca Collins was always inspired by living creatures.
For many years, she earned a healthy income painting colorful pet portraits on commission. But, after watching a documentary about the threat of pollinator extinction, she broadened her focus to include the entire bug and animal kingdom.
To highlight this threat, Collins began to use resistors, circuit boards, and other electronic components in her work to create wonderful, whimsical creations of butterflies, birds, and other winged creatures. Her series, Man Versus Nature, produced something beautiful, delicate, and arresting that draw attention to the realities of extinction.
As Man Versus Nature garnered rave reviews, Collins found herself facing a very different threat from within: she received a diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer.
While waylaid in infusion rooms, she chose to expand her design skills.
“All I could do for an entire year was doodle happy, healthy cells in simplistic abstract drawings,” Collins said.
It was during this period that she returned to her education on composition: value, line, and texture.
Collins’s roots are deeply set in Dallas. She was an early student of the Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet Program and attended the University of North Texas. There, she majored in metalworking and jewelry design, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
After graduation, she moved from metal to paper art.
“It was easier to access and much less expensive,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to have a welding torch in your apartment!”
It wasn’t until Collins entered her thirties that she started to consider herself a full-time, self-supporting artist. She also discovered her talent in mixed media.
“I use many disciplines in my work, including mosaic, collage, assemblage, printmaking, and anything I can get my hands on,” she said with a laugh. “Nothing is off-limits.”
Collins found herself greatly concerned about the cancer diagnosis. But even so, she thought if she were to take a cancer cell and view it under a microscope, she would find it beautiful.
“There are 37.2 trillion cells in the human body,” she said. “They all might not be healthy and round, but they’re still mine.”
In the process of creating her abstracted mosaic cell work, Collins visualizes more healthy cells inhabiting her body.
“I never wanted to feel at war with the cancer,” she said. “I just want the healthy cells to eventually outnumber the bad ones.”
Her current work reflects the tapestry of who and what we are, and Collins has found other cancer survivors who not only relate to her story, but are also drawn into her art world.
As she continues on her journey as an artist, she plans to return to her Man Versus Nature series in the upcoming year. Her immediate goal is to begin a physically larger body of work, completing one 16” x 20” piece per month for an entire year and then seeking gallery representation with the series.
In the meantime, you can find Collins teaching classes at the Creative Arts Center in East Dallas and in her home studio.
For more information, visit www.creativeartscenter.com or http://treehousestudio.eventbrite.com.