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Next-to-Last Thoughts

Posted on Dec 14, 2003  |   2652 views  

Twilight Seas In the hour after the sun sets into the sea, nature's palette defies description. The names of colors are simply inadequate, so we resort to metaphor, describing the sky as moody, the light as inspiring, the water as wary. The artist Carson Collins believes this is why the emotional truth of his twilight seascapes is more important than their pictorial truth. Without realizing it, we enter the scenes of his paintings ourselves, and suddenly the experience of the moment is not his, but ours. "I'm not sending a message," the artist says. "I'm offering an opportunity." His paintings, which invariably show the ocean horizon in early evening, framed by gentle foreground surf and infinite sky, can be mesmerizing. Some collectors compare them to Mandalas. Like those Buddhist works, which grow more absorbing the longer you look, Collins' paintings draw out reactions that begin subconsciously and then flower into insight. "Everyone has been on an empty beach to watch the sunset," he points out. "Some people turn their backs after the sun goes down, because for them the action's over. Some of us keep looking, because for us the action's just beginning." In fact, Collins spends hours each day studying the sea, and has maintained this practice for years while living on some of the world's choicest coastland: from the Bahamas to the Baltic, from California to the Caribbean, from Maui to Mauritius. "The sea is the oldest, best metaphor we have for human experience," he says. "Its the cradle of life, the mystery of death, the horizon we're always traveling toward. The more experience we have of the sea, the more experience we have of what it is to be human." His paintings, which range in size from several feet on a side to more than 60 square feet, are named for particular moments in particular places. The point is not to freeze a moment in time, but to open it up and find the essential qualities that will keep it alive for others to experience. Collins works with acrylic paint on canvas, in part because the fast-drying combination is well suited to seaside climates but also because it forces him to prepare thoroughly before working quickly to capture a subject that is, by its nature, disappearing as he paints it. He has exhibited in solo shows in such cultural centers as New York, San Francisco, and Stockholm, as well as in more exotic capitals such as San Jose, Costa Rica. His work has been called minimalist, impressionist, even surrealist - intriguing in a world that seems to love categorizing art as much as looking at it. But Collins is not trying to fit into a category or prove any theories. He's not even trying to tell us a story. Instead he wants to draw us so completely into nature's story that we tell it to ourselves. As his colors, textures, and technique begin to work their magic, we feel the loss of the sun slipping into the sea, the closeness of the evening draw around us like a cloak, and the tug of a memory so long forgotten, so deeply welcomed. Thom Elkjer 1999

United States

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