Aerin Collett, 30-something and a recent graduate of the University of Utah, knows how important it is to have support and encouragement as a woman artist. “As women we have to fight harder to have careers and deal with issues men don’t have to worry about,” she says. That’s why she started the four-month-old Wasatch Women Artists’ Collective.
It can be found on Facebook and it’s open to any Utah woman artist, amateur or professional, working in any medium. Right now, the fledgling group meets the first Monday of each month at 11:30 a.m., in the back room at Art Access. Though there are 60+ group members on Facebook, the gatherings have attracted 3-6 women. “The group is growing slowly,” says Collett, “which I think is better than having a burst of many people and have it dwindle to nothing. In time, as we build energy, we will start to add other activities and meeting times.”
In the first meetings, group members have shared work, processes, marketing ideas, and begun collaboration on applications for one or more group exhibits. Their first exhibit theme is “Seeing Red,” which Collett says can be “metaphorical or literal; each artist gets to decide how she will interpret the meaning.”
Collett’s vision of a successful group is one that “as it continues to grow and build tighter bonds of friendship and support, it increases in energy. As we stimulate each other’s thoughts individually and as a whole, what we can achieve becomes limitless, and what we decide to do with the group is infinite.” Though she is the group’s founder, she envisions a group that doesn’t have just one leader, but where all lead each other. Eventually, group members might also divide into smaller groups around similar interests, possibly meeting at different times.
By including artists at different age, experience, and career levels, Collett hopes everyone will have something to offer and will benefit in some way – creative stimulation, marketing and business savvy, as well as friendship.
Collett herself has had an inspiring start to her art career. In fall 2012 she won the top award at the U of U student show juried and hosted by Williams Fine Art (now Alderwood Fine Art). As the winner, she was the featured artist in this year’s show, held Nov. 15 -27.
During the year she cultivated a relationship with gallery owner Tom Alder and his assistants. She asked if she could bring in a couple of paintings and they agreed. “When one sold, they asked me to bring more and sign a contract with them,” says Collett.
Collett has developed a visual language and process that combines contemporary and traditional art in a way that is not only fun for the viewer but fun for her to create. Most of the work created for Alderwood features larger-than-life birds realistically rendered on highly textured and layered backgrounds. “I enjoy layers and transparency and thinking in a more complex way,” says Collett. For her it’s all about invention – challenging herself to combine media in unusual ways and working continuously to evolve and refine the process.
Meyer Gallery in Park City has also invited her to display work starting this month. Using similar processes, her subject will be bears and mountain sheep.
While keeping these galleries supplied with new work, Collett is hard at work on a new body of work with new subject matter in a similar bright and colorful style and process. That’s the only hint she will give right now.
After graduating in May, Collett rented studio space in the basement of Alderwood Fine Art. Since then she has had the unexpected opportunity to move to Mount Pleasant, UT with her three children. She feels blessed with lots of creative space, and beautiful vistas. At the same time she looks forward to visits to Salt Lake City for the Wasatch Women Artists’ Collective and monthly gallery strolls.
Sue Martin holds an M.A. in Theatre and has worked in public relations. As an artist, she works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic to capture Utah landscapes or the beauty of everyday objects in still life.