Trained as a chemist, Jess Collins (who went simply by “Jess”) decided to renounce science and pursue art full-time after having a gruesome nightmare about the end of the world. He began making art in 1949. Though he worked outside of the contemporary art mainstream, Jess ultimately gained critical esteem and is considered to have played a defining role in the late-20th-century Bay Area art scene. He is best known for his “Paste-Ups,” intricate collages of dizzying density and apparent seamlessness composed out of old book illustrations and images cut out of magazines. In his Translations paintings (1959-76), Jess accurately, and seemingly obsessively, reproduced images culled from children’s books and old science textbooks. He also made surrealistic sculptures out of an assortment of cast-off materials. Initially, most galleries considered his work too raw to show.
American, 1923-2004, Long Beach, California, based in San Francisco, California