This is the online gallery of Sheila Kollasch, a painter of Sonoran desert landscapes.

Creosote Base, 30

I have lived all of my life in the Sonoran Desert. As a child I played there, digging holes for forts in the shade of bur sage and creosote bushes. My friends and I cooled ourselves in irrigation ditches that meandered like creeks instead of flowing in the well-engineered straight lines indicated by water company maps. Our suburban desert creeks were lined with huge cottonwood, ash, mesquite and palo verde trees. The perfumed aromas of desert rain storms and wet creosote bring back my earliest and most precious memories of childhood.

Desert rivers generally flow only a few weeks or months of each year. Many of my paintings are of rock formations sculpted and scoured by seasonal high water flows. In Arizona I have floated through the landscape on the Salt River, Verde River and Tonto Creek; in Colorado on the Dolores and Yampa Rivers; in Utah on the Virgin, San Juan and Green Rivers; in New Mexico on the Chama River. I have also run the mighty Colorado River through Utah and Arizona.

I have ‘found’ myself while hiking and river running. This is where I get my inspiration. Each of my paintings is a prayer to a small moment experienced outdoors. Nature is my church and I have been reborn through the baptism of its stormy turbulence. After every storm the sun comes out again to shine on the soil, giving strength to the growing seeds both at my feet and in my imagination.

Broad landscapes may inspire awe, but they tell a generalized story of a region. I am fascinated by the dry leaves that have fallen from a bush that now lie at the base of their host plant, decomposing into nutrients for a future season. I want to peer into the cracks harboring the wind blown seeds that wait for the next rain in a soft bed of fine silt left by many breezes. These cracks and crevices harbor future forests and the wildflowers of next season.

My work reveals the intimate relationship I have with the wilderness. The exhilaration of an extended hike or outing results in paintings that share with the viewer my joy of tumbled boulder piles, broken cliff faces, festooned streambed pebbles and delicate plants striving for a foothold on life in precarious places.

Artwork © Sheila Kollasch. Quotations © their respective authors.