KC Collins trades in her scrubs for paintbrushes 

Light Years

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KC Collins wanted to be an artist from the time she was young, but after graduating from Elon University with an art degree, she listened to the practical voice in her head and enrolled in nursing school. For years she juggled nursing and painting, traveling to several shows a year and exhibiting at Piccolo Spoleto. And while her job at the neonatal department at MUSC has been "extremely rewarding," Collins says there's no denying she is an artist at heart.

Last year she was picked up by Robert Lange Studios, and she's been busy preparing for her first solo show. Gallery co-owner Megan Lange says she's impressed with the work she's seen thus far. "When we did a studio visit to see how the pieces were progressing for her show, we were blown away," Lange says. "There were countless pieces in various levels of completion, and each one had a unique quality and all had a vibrancy that was wonderful. KC has gone well above our expectations." Lange adds that the March art walk is always a favorite, and that Collins' work is a perfect fit. "The colors and luminosity in her work fit with the change of season and mood that always happens the first weekend of March."

Describing her style as "atmospheric painting," Collins says, "When I lose the edges in a painting, the subject becomes secondary, allowing the viewer to focus on the balance of light, space, and color." Her recent paintings have a strong focal point that is accentuated by light in a way that is both haunting and peaceful. In "Lightsome I-X," Collins depicts a series of jellyfish as they push and pull, moving like dancers through the water. "I went to the aquarium to study the jellyfish and went kind of crazy," she says.

Another series of trees was inspired by a camping trip to Capers Island. Collins and her boyfriend were caught in an unexpected storm with their dogs and no cell phone service for several hours. The result of their adventure is a four-paneled painting (untitled at the time of this interview) of watery, web-like trees that reach and bend, defying their wooden properties.

Drawn to the converging lines of street scenes, Collins works to transform an ordinary street into something abstract. Many of these cenes are done in dark blues and grays and feel ethereal, but "Relay," and "Pursuit" use warmer reds and greens, reflecting a sexy, fast-paced modernity. The viewer is alone on the road, surging toward the lights of the city.

Collins is always driven to capture a contrast in her paintings, pulling from the extremes of light and dark, soft and bold, and saturated and muted colors. This process requires patience and many thin glazes of oil, layered over time, which results in an image that looks more like a photograph than an oil painting. "I approach my work from a personal level and paint from my imagination and from life," she says. "Once I begin, and I've been painting for 12 hours a day getting ready for this show, the works takes on a life of their own."

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