In 200 Words: Bethany Collins at Kibbee Gallery

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Bethany Collins, Mixed, 1984, American Heritage Dictionary, 2013, Ink on American Master's paper, 30 x 22 inches in Outdated, Kibbee Gallery, September 14-28, 2013, image courtesy the writer.
Bethany Collins, Mixed, 1984, American Heritage Dictionary, 2013, ink on American Master’s paper, 30 x 22 inches in Outdated, Kibbee Gallery, September 14-28, 2013. Photo by Tom Berlangero.

The spare selection of works now on view at Kibbee Gallery neatly summarizes Bethany Collins’ investigation of language as simultaneously ambiguous and socially potent. The exhibition, Outdated, features work by Hailey Lowe Fennell and Collins [September 14 – September 28]. In Thick But Not Thick Enough (2012), the letters comprising the title, which like most of Collins’ text is taken from everyday conversation, repeat and accumulate forming dense clouds and giving visual form to the ways in which language tends to surround us. A singular utterance repeated becomes an atmosphere – less perceptible but more potently sensible.


The show is carried, however by a suite of four pieces from her Dictionaries series (2012), in which the artist transfers and then scratches out definitions from Webster’s New World Dictionary, leaving a handful of words intact. In these taut and economical pieces, Collins’ gesture leaves behind the gnarled trace of a controlled violence. In light of the artist’s interest in multiple meanings, these works show an agitated narrowing of focus as alternate interpretations of a word are killed off and only a certain sense of it remains.

In these elegant works we see a mind deeply concerned with the legacies of racism in America, channeled through a voice that doesn’t clamor but rather quietly invites the viewer to join in a slow probing of these insidious forces.

Tom Berlangero

Tom Berlangero is a writer, designer, artist, and improviser. He currently lives, breathes and works in Atlanta, GA where he likes hikes, rides bikes & cooks new meals to feel real. He is a recent transplant from New York where he earned a BFA in Painting and Sculpture from SUNY Purchase, studied improv comedy, and learned to always follow the fear forward forever amen.

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