Bethany Collins: Of a piece

September 1 – October 21, 2017

Of a piece presents work by Chicago-based Bethany Collins. As Holland Cotter noted writing in The New York Times, “language itself, viewed as intrinsically racialized, is Bethany Collins’ primary material.”  Through translation and transposition, drawing and installation, Collins explores multiplicities and contradictions in language as a lens for considering racial identity.

Between Green and Violet is a twenty-nine part work of all the definitions of "blue" from a 1950s dictionary. Blue is often the last color to be named in the development of a language. Perhaps it is because, with the exception of the sky, vibrant blue appears rarely in the natural world. Once you tease the word out into all of its singular parts, the meaning is lost. The words don't easily realign into a cohesive definition for "blue." Also at play is the relationship between blue and black and an early 20th century theory believed that cultures that used the terms "black" and "blue" interchangeably were more "primitive" because they had not developed the ability to physically see the difference.

The second work is America: A Hymnal.  Written by the Rev. Samuel F. Smith in 1831, My Country ’Tis of Thee (also known as America) debuted on July 4, 1831. Since Smith’s writing, the lyrics of were re-titled and re-written at least one hundred hundred times. Each re-writing in support of a passionately held cause—from temperance and suffrage to abolition and even the Confederacy—articulates a version of what it means to be American.

America: A Hymnal is made up of 100 versions of My Country 'Tis of Thee from the 18th-20th c. While the differing lyrics remain legible, the hymnal's unifying tune has been all but burned away. In its many lyrical variations, America: A Hymnal is a chronological retelling of American history, politics and culture through one song.

Collins’ works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationwide, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Drawing Center, the Wexner Center for the Arts, 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. In 2015, she was awarded the Hudgens Prize.


Artist talk and reception will take place on September 2, 2017 starting at 11am.