Interview With Bethanie Collins

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I am an artist and art educator living and working in the Midwest. My work involves issues surrounding perception (physical, social, emotional, economical) that are translated through the lens of art and design.

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
A lot of inspiration for my work comes from the design world. I’m greatly influenced by art of the Bauhaus and the culture that came along with it. Reconciling the individual spirit of the artist and mass-production was a primary concern for the artists involved with this movement. This topic has definitely become a point of contention for me in my own artistic practice. This is shown through my pairing of digital paintings with items such as chairs and bags made by hand. This also relates to my love/hate relationship to Ikea, whose connection between maker and mass-production is simultaneously humorous and enticing. I see its influence showing up in my work quite often. For instance, I make chairs that can easily be stored flat and then assembled with just four nails. However, the chairs are non-utilitarian because of the instability of only have those four nails to support the whole structure. Also, the seat of the chair consists of a digital print stretched over thin wood bars and therefore cannot support any significant amount of weight. Through this, it becomes a “trick chair” of sorts; an object that holds style above function.

Word games also spark ideas. Language is a written and spoken method of communication that helps us create and clarify meaning. However, language is filled with tricks and inconsistencies. Recently I've been making text pieces that use heteronyms, which are words that are written identically but can have wildly different meanings depending on context. 

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My work would not function without color matching. The six colors I use in each piece are very specific.  When I’m creating a piece in Photoshop, I use hex codes. These codes are number/letter combinations that serve as a color matching tool for the digital world. If I ever need to get paint, I bring a printed out swatch of the color to the hardware store and they will scan it and use their own color matching system. It’s very important that the colors I use follow a specific system because color perception is otherwise so subjective. Lighting, air quality, even ones mood can change how a color is perceived. I rely on those aspects when I'm showing my work and since I am able to present all of my colors out of a consistent system, the subjectiveness of the color becomes more prominent.

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?

The biggest obstacle I run in to is not being able to concentrate on one thing at a time. I'm always trying to connect the dots and one thing leads to another and another and so on. I'll always have that need to know. I'm a truth seeker. That's probably why my work revolves so much around illusion. I've learned that, for me, concentration has to be a deliberate effort. It doesn't come naturally. 

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?  
Illusion. Context. Perception. Subjectivity.

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? 
The artist Robert Irwin explored situational qualities, perception, and context. He made that his central concern in his artistic practice. I can relate to a lot of what he says. About four years ago, I read “Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees” in which Irwin’s thoughts and processes were documented. That book totally blew me away. I keep going back to it when I need to be inspired.  

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
Never be satisfied. There’s always more to explore.

    Console    Digital painting printed on canvas 24 x 50 in.

Digital painting printed on canvas
24 x 50 in.