Past Exhibit - Oil and Clay by Jean Collins and Cheryl Buell
(Main Lobby Area, Mullins Library
The artistic output of Jean Collins and Cheryl Buell may not take the same form, but it originates in a similar impulse—the creation of art to explore the spiritual.
Collins states, “Painting offers passage to a sacred realm for me.” A native of New Mexico, Collins spent a year studying painting and art history at the Paris American Academy, but she says her life as an artist did not begin in earnest until she took a year’s sabbatical from her position as library dean at Northern Arizona University. She says, “There were so many paintings pent up inside that I simply watched in amazement as one painting after another came from somewhere deep within me, paintings I must have been harboring for years.” This might account for the tremendous variety in the paintings exhibited—from the photographic intensity of “Canyon Storm” and “Hopi Land” to the realm of the fantastical in “Castle” and “Genesis.” Collins also ventures into the styles of the masters with “Rembrant in Arkansas,” “Madonna and Child,” and “After the Flame.”
Similarly, Buell, a longtime regular exhibitor at Farmer’s Market on the Fayetteville Square, says her series of ceramic wall hangings began with the desire to “explore the thought of death and release.” Buell’s pieces, not for the faint of heart, feature mummified remains of birds fired onto the clay wall hangings. These carefully wrapped birds symbolize for Buell “the feeling of being bound and wrapped in this shell we call the body,” whereas their arched wings “represent release as we break free of the shell.” Some of the pieces represent loss in this life, such as “Death of the Warrior” and “Spirit of Summers Past,” while others emphasize rebirth unto another, such as “Gathering Birds of Passage” and “Cocoon of Intent.” In one whimsical piece, “The Observer,” a tiny mouse joins the party to watch two birds joined in their frozen dance of death—or rebirth.