Gary & Cheryl Collins | A Heart in Art
Nestled in the savory sage brush of Kayenta, an unassuming desert home with a dirt driveway and an eclectic front yard holds over 60 years of art history. That history was created by Gary and Cheryl Collins over their combined decades of travel and creation.
Cheryl found her creative beginnings in writing when she was very young and said it was like her therapy. Soon, though, life took over and the need to take care of family had her working full-time keeping books for a country club. That turn of events, however, had a brighter side as that’s where she met her current husband of 20 years, Gary.
“I had known of Gary for a long time because he was kind of the cool artist,” Cheryl said.
Gary has dedicated his whole life to the creation and enjoyment of art. He stares ahead as if reliving the memories as he told of years living in Italy and southern France spending hours painting in the streets. Sometimes he created a painting a day.
“Art has a way of equalizing people,” Gary said. “People would come up to me and ask if they could watch me paint. They didn’t know who I was and I didn’t know them.”
Gary has created thousands of oil paintings and sculptures over his career as a professional artist. When asked to point out his favorite piece, his face freezes in thought and points out a piece with a white tree.
“[My uncle] would take me to the back of Mount Timpanogos,” Gary said. “I grew up really loving trees…Aspen trees have been really good to me. Every once and awhile I have to hug an Aspen tree. Each one of them have their own personality.”
Aspens are a common motif in his paintings and many hang proudly on his living room wall that feature stunning landscapes real enough that you could’ve jumped into them and taken a stroll through a sunlit meadow.
After meeting Gary, Cheryl jumped back into art learning the nuances of glass, then metal sculpture, and has developed her skill in clay and painting as well. Many of her pieces have sold across the U.S. but it is her local work that hits her heartstrings.
“Art helped me open my heart, and reach a level of more connection with different types of people.” Cheryl commented misty-eyed. “Art has really transformed me. It’s changed my whole life.”
And it’s also changed other people in Southern Utah. One of her largest art installations is the healing towers at Intermountain Healthcare Dixie Regional Medical Center. At a towering 17-feet, they exhibit different non denominational symbols inspired by ancient cultures. Each of them are meant to promote healing and hope to those who are feeling the darkest of hours.
“It was a wonderful piece that really opened me up to different cultures and being connected to everything and it just opened my heart and my mind,” Cheryl commented.
Cheryl also contributed to the Desert Rose Labyrinth in Kayenta with glass and bronze sculptures that add a depth and meaning to the passage and message of the labyrinth. Each of the glass inlays teaches a person on what a labyrinth is and how to walk a labyrinth. Gary did a sculpture called Rainbow and Lightning, which is just one of the many pieces donated by local artists that line the walking path.
They also contribute to the Center for the Arts in Kayenta by setting up a 36 square painting that people could purchase a small square to paint themselves. Those donations along with the selling of the painting and another of Gary’s contributed to over $138,000 to the Center for the Arts.
“Art is like birthing a child,” Cheryl said. “It just flows from you and she’ll let you know when to stop.”