Original article no longer available
Published on 1/6/2009
It was the endless sleepless nights – hour after hour, night after night – that compelled Corey Collins to paint.
In ninth grade, it began. He couldn’t sleep. He was awake for 50 or 60 hours at a time, managing maybe a three-hour nap, and then repeating the cycle.
The evenings, Collins says simply, were terrible.
Creating art, he says, began “just to occupy the time. When you’re up every night, it’s a long, long time to just sit and think. It’s nice to have something to focus on.”
This is how he explains it on a recent day at The Gallery at Lighthouse in Groton, where he was preparing for a new exhibition.
Like all the other regional artists to exhibit at the gallery so far, Collins isn’t a Lighthouse student. Now in Hartford and studying to be an electrician, the 22-year-old lived in Stonington until a year ago.
It was at the Velvet Mill in the borough, where he was storing his work, that Lighthouse Gallery Director Chris Rose first saw Collins’ art and was taken by its intensity and roiling emotion.
At first, that intensity grew from anguish. In the brochure that accompanies Collins’ show, the artist details what followed his insomnia – worsening hallucinations that he thinks can be traced to his lack of sleep, and medications prescribed by doctors, from lithium for bi-polar disorder to anti-depressant.
For a long, despairing time, the various medications that doctors tried didn’t help, making Collins frustrated with the world.
Eventually, though, he did get better, and he writes, “I used to feel nothing. Now, I paint when I feel anything because it’s great to feel.”
Indeed, Collins’ multimedia art bubbles and bursts with creativity and energy. Its abstract nature can serve as a bit of a Rorschach test for the viewer.
He has showed his art in coffee shops, and Collins says, “One of my favorite things to do is sit down (in the shops), and nobody knows it’s me … and I listen to what people say – ‘I see this, and I see this’ – stuff that I never imagined was in there.”
In one piece, Collins says he wasn’t trying to make any statement, but some people saw the fires of hell.
Conversely, he incorporated his little sister’s silhouette into another painting, but no one ever sees that.
In creating art, Collins employs material that he finds everywhere. He had been working in construction, and he’d find useable items in Dumpsters, in the detritus that people were throwing away.
Various pieces inventively use glass table-tops, Gorilla glue and wood slats, mesh wire, nails and foam. Rich blue streaks that slide down one canvas come from melted blueberry-scented candles, and the wax still sends out a sweet blueberry odor.
During his lowest points, art – along with music and martial arts – provided a lifeline of sorts for Collins. He still loves doing those things, but he says, “Now, I just paint when I want to.”