In Memoriam | Visual Arts

Gary Max Collins (1936 – 2022)

There will be no funeral for Gary Max Collins, a prolific Utah painter who made his career from art for five decades. A celebration of life, a chance to share stories? Maybe, at a later date, as he directed in the obituary he prepared for himself, where he wrote, “I’ve lived a long, wonderful life and I thank everyone who has added love and laughter to this wild ride.”

Collins grew up in Provo, where he attended Brigham Young High School and Brigham Young University. After returning from an LDS mission in the Northwestern States, he moved to Salt Lake City, where he attended the University of Utah and began a career as a designer, illustrator and artist. By 1969 he began to make a living with his art, exhibiting widely in Utah and the west.

Collins was largely self-taught, though he learned much from looking both at Utah’s early artists and at masters of modernism like van Gogh and Matisse. His works — whether of landscapes, floating planes of color or golf courses — glowed with color. Though he was a close observer of the landscapes he loved, especially the aspen trees of the mountain west and the shimmering deserts of the Southwest, he never succumbed to the snare of realism, preferring to evoke the poetry of a place and the feel of shifting light. A press release from a Los Angeles gallery said of Gary Collins, “Many artists have the ability to depict a landscape. Few have the talent to show a viewer what the places feels like.” He was equally at home with nonobjective painting and his acrylics of floating planes of color were as popular as his landscape paintings.

“Tranquillity”

A late night conversation with a brother-in-law launched him into the world of publishing. For psychologists Stephen C. Paul’s 1990 self-help book, Illuminations: Visions for Change, Growth and Self-Acceptance, he provided 96 paintings as illustrations. He did the same for the 1995 follow-up In Love: Visions of Expanding Love.  In The Secrets to the Game of Golf Life by Leonard Finkel, he brought 50 golf landscapes to life under his brush.

Collins raised three children, two of whom became successful artists in their own right.

After he and his wife, Cheryl Collins, built a home in Kayenta, Utah, Collins began spending his summers painting in the villages and countryside of France and Italy and the rest of his time working out of his Utah studio.

In 2008 he was honored with the Utah Governor’s award. On that occasion he said, “Painting is my true joy. I feel fortunate that I am able to make my living doing what I love, that I have the luxury of being able to follow my bliss.”

Collins’ untitled abstract work, part of the Salt Lake County art collections, hangs in the lobby of the Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 S., Salt Lake City, UT

You can view more of the artist’s work at http://gary.collinsart.net/

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  1. I became acquainted with Gary Collins shortly after I arrived in Utah in 1970. As Shawn Rossiter reports, his work had just begun to take off. I didn’t yet realize what a feat it was to actually make a living here doing what you loved — painting, creating in almost any form without teaching “on the side” to make ends meet. That Gary’s work was beloved by so many, that he could spend time traveling and pass his love of art on to his children describes, for me, a life well lived.

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