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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Natural Extension of Silence

Many individuals believe the desert is a natural extension of the inner silence of the body, quietly lush in its way and indifferent to all outsiders. No one knows this better than the native residences who call the Sonoran Desert home. Artist Sheila Kollasch is one of the few who have called the Tonto National Forest, and Spur Cross Ranch home their entire life.

Raised in the 'Valley of the Sun,' Sheila's first career choice declaration came in kindergarten when she announced she would be an artist. The comment was not taken seriously, just a child's musings. As time passed and Sheila moved into advanced grades, this dream began to materialize with a full four-year art scholarship to Arizona State University. Yet, Sheila's inner silence guided her away from formal education to one with hand-picked teachers on various campuses of the Maricopa County Community College District and Scottsdale Artist's School. This experience, by all standards, met with Sheila's idea of "an excellent arts education with custom experiences,” requiring her to drop out of ASU. Sheila recounts, "Upon leaving ASU, I worked at a local art supply store. The experience provided me with an opportunity to deal with the personalities of local artists and see their work in action." Sheila returned to school in the early 1990s to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree with a minor in Museum Studies through Prescott College.

"Nature is my church, and each meeting is a chance to be reborn."

Sheila is an avid hiker and desert explorer, beginning childhood roots of digging holes for forts under the shade of creosote bushes and wading in the area's irrigation ditches. She chose to live in the great wilderness known as the Spur Cross Preservation Area as an adult. According to Sheila, "Nature is my church, and each meeting is a chance to be reborn." Sheila's canvases reflect both the maturation of the artist and the change in our desert environment. She creates micro-view images illustrating the spines of a yucca cactus or pebbles in a slow-moving creek; other works depict macro-visions of expansive landscapes or canopies of majestic Mesquite and Palo Verde trees. Many of her works have found their way into numerous private and corporate collections around the State. The Bank of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Memorial Hospital North, and the Arizona Museum of Natural History are among her benefactors.

Sheila's Museum Studies program and experience enabled her to work as a full-time curator with the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona, and consult with other Arizona Museums on behalf of their collections over her career in the arts. She retired in 2018 from the Phoenix Airport Museum located at Sky Harbor International Airport. Sheila's work is represented by On the Edge Gallery in Scottsdale, on her website, and in various juried art shows in the area. Artist Sheila Kollasch is a member of the Sonoran Arts League and exhibits in the Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour each November.



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