A British noblewoman once snidely referred to our city as “a pretty lady with a dirty face,” but artist K.A. Collins hopes to change that perception.
Though she does not deny that Savannah’s personality is unequivocally feminine with its delicate strands of moss and demurely shaded gardens, Collins sees her as a lovely lass with a myriad of unsullied visages. She has recently launched The Sweet Seduction of Savannah, a series of portraits that consider the question: If Savannah was a woman, what would her many faces look like?
The answer, insists Collins, is multi–hued.
One cannot represent the beauty of Savannah in one portrait, and the artist wants to acknowledge the diversity of who she sees on the streets.
“There are so many beautiful women who typify the essence of this town,” she says. “I want to showcase African–American, European, Asian and Latino faces in this work.”
In her early 50s with long red hair, Collins began her art career three decades ago in Florence, Italy. There she was deeply influenced by the dramatic portraits by Carvaggio, Titian and other Italian masters, developing a rich, Renaissance–inspired style that revolves much around how light plays upon faces. She continued to study in San Francisco and in Denver, and became fascinated with the imaginative whimsy of the Surrealists, particularly Salvador Dali.
“I think of Dali as a storyteller, and that has inspired this project,” she muses. “I want to celebrate the women of Savannah and their contributions.”
Using soft focus and gossamer lines, her technique pairs classical realism with a dreamy quality. She calls herself a “magical surrealist,” which she defines as “putting a little more of the ‘other world’ into this world.”
But like Dali, Collins is also an accomplished draftsperson, penning neat architectural renderings in black ink. She was highly involved in the preservation of Denver’s Wolf Creek Historic District and became enchanted with Savannah’s magnificently restored homes when her daughter, a metalworker, was accepted to SCAD. Both Collins’ portraits and paintings of historic homefronts are currently being exhibited at the Grand Bohemian Gallery in the Mansion Hotel.
“I like to include architecture and ambience in my work,” she says. “Houses can be just like people portraits, with their own personalities.”
She often wanders the historic district with her sketchbook, capturing the city’s mysterious milieu at the street level.
“The intimacy of the gardens, the beautiful florals, the ironwork of the gates — you would miss it if you weren’t walking.”
While the architecture provides a lush backdrop, the intent of The Sweet Seduction is to incorporate the diversity of faces into the ethereal nature of the landscape. Using silver point to sketch and oil paints for color, Collins plans to hire an array of art models to tell the story of Savannah’s feminine mystique.
“By using a lot of different–looking people, I hope to capture my articulation of what Savannah looks like,” she says.
To jumpstart the project, she’s using the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to raise funds to pay her models, order prints and buy frames. The campaign is international and flexible, which means she can raise as much as she can in 30 days rather than the “all of nothing” policy of Kickstarter. She’s currently seeking female faces of all colors to pose in the next few weeks; interested parties can contact her via indiegogo.com/thesweetseductionofsavannah.
Sparked by the “way the community embraces art here,” Collins sees The Sweet Seduction as a way to reflect the city’s beauty to itself as well as to the rest of the world.
“I hope it will encourage people who haven’t seen the loveliness of the place and the people to come here,” ponders the magical surrealist. “And maybe it will encourage those people to stay.”