Many believe the desert is a natural extension of the inner silence of the body, quietly lush in its way, 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 Tonto National Forest foothills and Spur Cross Ranch home their entire life.
Raised in the “Valley of the Sun,” Kollasch’s first declaration of career choice came in kindergarten when she announced she would be an artist. True to the 1950s classrooms for Arizona children, that comment was not to be taken seriously, just a child’s musings. As time passed and Kollasch moved into advanced grades, this dream began to materialize with a full four-year art scholarship to Arizona State University.
Yet, Kollasch’s inner silence spoke to not a formal education but one with hand-picked teachers at various campuses of the Maricopa Community College District and the Scottsdale Artists’ School. This experience, by all standards, met with Kollasch’s idea of “an excellent custom art education sans degree,” requiring dropping out of ASU. She recounts, “Upon leaving ASU, I worked at a local art supply store, providing an opportunity to deal with the personalities of local artists and see their work in action.” Kollasch returned to school in the early 1990s to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree with a minor in museum studies through Prescott College.
Over the years, Kollasch has been an avid hiker and desert explorer, from her childhood roots of digging holes for forts in the shade of creosote bushes to wading in the area’s irrigation ditches to living in the great wilderness, known today as the Spur Cross Preservation Area.
According to her, “Nature is my church, and each meeting is a chance to be reborn.” Kollasch’s canvases reflect both the maturation of the artist and the change in our desert environment. Micro-view images into the spines of a cactus or pebbles in a slow-moving creek, as well as macro-visions of expansive landscapes or canopies of Mesquite and Palo Verde trees, have found their way into numerous private and corporate collections around the state. Her collectors are the Bank of Scottsdale, Scottsdale Memorial Hospital North and the Arizona Museum of Natural History, to name a few.
Kollasch’s museum studies program enabled her to work as a full-time curator with the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, consult with many other Arizona museums, and eventually retire in 2018 from the Phoenix Airport Museum at Sky Harbor International Airport.
Kollasch’s work can be seen at On The Edge Gallery in Scottsdale ontheedgegallery.com on her website skollasch.com and various art shows during the season. Kollasch is a member of the Sonoran Arts League and exhibits with the Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour each November see sonoranartsleague.org. Kollasch may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.