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 Webster’s 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. 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, Van Every/Smith Galleries at Davidson College, 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. She is currently represented by Patron Gallery, Chicago, and Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago & New York.
Collins was a 2019-2020 Public Humanities Practitioner-in-Residence at Davidson College. While many of our peer institutions continue to struggle with their past in regard to slavery and racism, particularly in the form of monuments and portraits, Davidson College is choosing to engage with our past. The recent creation of a Commission on Race and Slavery is an excellent example of this engagement. Analogous to the commission, the Galleries commissioned Bethany Collins to create a new work of art specifically for Davidson College, drawing on historical documents from the college’s archive. She came to Davidson in the fall of 2019, and in addition to research related to the commission, also had a solo exhibition at the Smith Gallery, gave a gallery talk, and conducted a “Coffee+Conversation” event.