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 Contronym series, for instance, Collins transposes definitions from Websters New World Dictionary of American Language onto 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 in The New York Times, language itself, viewed as intrinsically racialized, is Bethany Collins primary material.
Her works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationwide, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Drawing Center, the High Museum of Art and the Birmingham Museum of Art. Collins has been recognized as an Artist-in-Residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the MacDowell Colony, the Bemis Center and the Hyde Park Art Center among others. And in 2015, she was awarded the Hudgens Prize.
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- its 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.