Nicholas Collins, local printmaker, is currently exhibiting at Cobalt Gallery in Mendocino. His series of colorful prints made from linocut titled ‘Cops’ is based on iconic images of the 1970s police officer. Collins studied printmaking at College of the Redwoods, and later trained in etching and linocut at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, where he was an artist in residence for two years. While at Kala, Collins discovered his love for linocut after working with printmaker, Emmanuel Montoya. “He was half Apache and half Mexican, so he had all of this wonderful imagery to pull from, and I just fell in love with it. I had done it before, but I didn’t realize how powerful the medium was. There is no gray, everything has be very strong, and that appeals to my nature in making things,” said Collins.
Linocut is a form of block printing that involves carving a design into a layer of linoleum, then filling it with paint or ink pressing onto the printed surface. Linocut was first used in the early 1900’s for making paintings on wallpaper. It was also widely used at the time among the German Expressionists and Russian Contructivist movements. It was initially considered the poor person’s engraver’s wood because it was easier and cheaper to use, but gained popularity after artists Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso started using it in their work.
Now, Collins works solely in linocut, and usually works in a series.
“By nature I am more all over the place, so sticking to one medium and sticking to this one idea it really advances me as an artist,” explains Collins.
Prior to ‘Cops’, Collins did a series titled ‘Portraits’ which was an exploration of moods and characterizations. Collins often likes to illustrate people’s expressions, which can also be seen in his most recent collection of work.
Collins explains he chose the cop for this series largely for its imagery. “Aesthetically, I like the way it is evocative. You see a cop and then suddenly you feel really strange, and I wanted to put that into an art format.”
Given the current political atmosphere surrounding police officers at this time, Collins also wanted to, in part, challenge or at least stir the way people feel about cops given the current media coverage.
“The media is saturated with them and I wanted to address my take on these people. What do they do? How do they feel? What do they signify,” said Collins
Working from the mirror, Collins was able to create officers exhibiting myriad expressions you wouldn’t typically expect to see on a cop, explained Collins.
“I just want to get into people’s heads a little bit. This is a person, and all this stuff is happening around them, but how do you react to them? How do you react to being looked at by them? I had this vision of being surrounded by officers looking at you, like how it is at the Cobalt, and I thought that would make you feel something and it does. I like that interaction,” said Collins.
Collins’ show will be on display at Cobalt until the end of June, and then he will bring it to North Coast Gallery in August and Odd Fellows in September.