Bethany Collins (American, b.1984) is a multidisciplinary artist whose conceptually driven work is fueled by a critical exploration of how race and language interact. In her Contronyms series, for instance, Collins transposes definitions fromWebster’s New World Dictionary of American Languageonto American Masters paper, then aggressively obscures much of the entries with an eraser. What remain are specific snippets of meaning that are poetically charged through their isolation, as well as the crumbled paper bits left behind by her erasing. As Holland Cotter noted writing inThe New York Times,“language itself, viewed as intrinsically racialized, is Bethany Collins’s primary material.” Her works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationwide, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, and the Flint Institute of Arts. Collins is a former Hambidge Center Fellow and currently serves on the Board of Trustees. Collins has been recognized as an Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and was awarded the Hudgens Prize in 2015.
I am interested in the unnerving possibility of multiple meanings, dual perceptions, and limitlessness in the seemingly binary. Drawing repeatedly allows me to fully understand objects in space, while defining and redefining my own racial landscape.
For me, racial identity has neither been instantly formed nor conjured in isolation. Rather, identity entangles memory: actual and revisited, cultural and historical, individual and collective. Through the dissolution of dichotomies and exploration of language, this work recalls moments in the formation of my racial identity as Black and Biracial. And each re-worked mark is yet another attempt to navigate the binary paradigm of race in the American South.
From my earlier White Noise to more recent Southern Review series, each new body of work borders on an obsessive preoccupation with language- it’s ability and inability to negotiate a way of being in the world. But I have found in my practice a delight in these obsessive preoccupations. And in the solutions they slowly, ever so slowly, but inevitably offer.
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