Frist Art Museum Presents “Bethany Collins: Evensong”

The Frist Art Museum presents Bethany Collins: Evensong, an exhibition of multimedia works—including paintings, drawings, prints, an artist’s book, and wallpaper—that explores the historic intersection of language and race. Organized by the Frist Art Museum, the exhibition will be on view from June 11 through September 12, 2021.
In her conceptually driven practice, Chicago-based artist Bethany Collins (b. 1984) mines official publications—from dictionaries to newspapers to government reports—to find words or phrases that reflect a cultural ethos, particularly those related to racial and national identities. “The Frist is pleased to be presenting a selection of this increasingly in-demand artist’s timely work. After the 2016 presidential election, Collins deepened her study of past texts in an effort to better understand the present great divide,” said Frist Art Museum senior curator Katie Delmez. “This exhibition explores the complicated relationship of a person with her homeland.”

To create many of the works on view at the Frist, Collins painstakingly reproduced selected texts through various means, such as blind-embossed printing, laser cutting, or tedious handwriting, and then manipulated the final form in some way. “By altering existing documents, Collins critiques the accuracy of the historical record and highlights the suggestive power of words,” said Delmez. “Often intentionally hard to read, Collins’s creations also offer commentary on the insidious nature of systemic inequities.”

A focal point of one gallery at the Frist will be a newly produced artist’s book containing 100 iterations of “The Star Spangled Banner,” originally written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. Different versions have been written over time to support various political or social causes—from abolition and the Confederacy to temperance and suffrage. The lyrics of each remain visible, but the artist used a laser to cut out the musical notes—the unifying melody across all versions of the song. The many reinterpretations of the national anthem suggest that there are multiple and dissenting ways to express patriotism, as well as dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Since 2016, Collins has also examined translations of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, which recounts the ten-year journey of the warrior Odysseus after the Trojan War. “Collins was especially interested in Book 13 of the ancient text of exile and homecoming, which describes the sense of estrangement and unfamiliarity Odysseus felt on returning to his homeland,” said Delmez.

The concept of homeland is a recurring theme in Collins’s practice. Born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, and trained at the University of Alabama and Georgia State University, she has deep ties to the southeastern U.S. Since graduate school, though, she has lived in northern cities such as New York, as well as Chicago where she now resides. Her relationship to the region of her upbringing—and her connection to the country as a whole—is one fraught with conflicting emotions. This is expressed in the screen-printed and flocked wallpaper I cling to you in sunshine and in shade (2020), which features silhouettes of botanical specimens mentioned in a 1965 translation of The Odyssey, as sourced from the Alabama Herbarium Consortium.

In a separate series related to the concept of homelands, blind-embossed prints of classified ads placed by formerly enslaved people looking for lost family members after the Civil War speak beyond the displacement they experienced to the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border under the previous administration.

“We had originally planned to present Evensong last summer, during the lead-up to the presidential election,” said Delmez. “Appropriate as that timing would have been, the historic events of 2020 have made Collins’s work arguably even more relevant during this period of division—perhaps unprecedented since the Civil War—when true patriotism and love of country may mean making room for dissent.”

Programs
Thursday, June 10 Artist’s Perspective
5:30 p.m.
presented on Zoom
Free. Registration required. Sign up at FristArtMuseum.org/events.
Language and how it can reflect a cultural ethos, particularly the nuance of racial and national identities, is the primary subject in Bethany Collins’s multimedia practice. Her works exploring historical texts such as The Odyssey and “The Star Spangled Banner” prompt reflection on patriotism and individual position within national identity. Join Collins as she discusses her practice, the use of language in her works, and the exhibition Evensong during this talk.

Exhibition Credit
Organized by the Frist Art Museum

Supporter Acknowledgment
Funded in part by the Gordon CAP Gallery Fund

With additional support from the Frist Art Museum’s Friends of Contemporary Art

The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by The Frist Foundation, the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Read about the Frist’s Health and Safety Procedures.

Connect with us @FristArtMuseum #TheFrist #FristBethanyCollins

About the Frist Art Museum
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. Information on accessibility can be found at FristArtMuseum.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors ages 18 and younger and for members, and $15 for adults. For current hours and additional information, visit FristArtMuseum.org or call 615.244.3340.

Bethany Collins Image courtesy of the artist and PATRON Gallery, Chicago. Photo: Chris Edward

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