Artist Bethany Collins returns to CAM for an artist talk this Thursday. Museum staff is fortunate enough to get the opportunity to speak with exhibition artists prior to installation. We were doubly blessed this past summer to hear from both Collins and Stephanie Syjuco. Both are compelling speakers, whip-smart, and ameable. You like being around them.
Collins mesmerized us with the precise quality of her language when talking about her work. This shouldn’t be surprising, since her practice is focused on language, both its rapturous and calamitous powers. Collins possesses a captivating speaking voice, one that surely comes from someone who understands song and lyricism.
In her Information Wanted, 1893 series, Collins reproduces collections of classified ads—published shortly before the end of the Civil War until the 1920s—by African Americans separated from family members by war, slavery, and emancipation. These ads are often brief—consisting of memories, a name, their loved ones’ former owners, where they once lived—illustrating the shared experience of individuals. These twice-embossed prints, like other text-based works in the show, are hard to read, like history and human emotion are hard to “read,” both being slippery and ever-changing. You can ask for a printed version of the classifieds Collins has remade. They too are like song with refrain: any information will be thankfully received, any information will be very thankfully received by his son, any information leading to his whereabaouts will be gladly received by his mother….
These ads were read aloud in African American churches across the country. In Collins’s work, we hear them in their silence.
The Artist Talk is free. Thursday, November 7 at 6:30 pm. Register here.