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UA Alumna’s MMFA Exhibition Explores Race and Language

Installation view, “Bethany Collins: My destiny is in your hands” at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Bethany Collins (BA 2007), an undergraduate alumna in studio art and visual journalism, has a solo exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts that ends May 9.

The central focus of Collins’ exhibition, titled My destiny is in your hands, is a white on white screen-printed and flocked wallpaper that depicts the official state flowers of the American South alongside the official flowers of states along Great Migration routes, where millions of African Americans traveled after the Civil War to start new lives outside the South. The exhibition, Bethany Collins: My destiny is in your hands, is named for the phrase assigned to  Alabama’s state flower, the camellia, and is a multi-layered meditation on love, possession, pain and nationhood. Collins’ investigation of the language of flowers, or floriography, led her to investigate nineteenth-century flower dictionaries, which made the transmission of covert messages possible through “talking bouquets,” as well as to state symbols—from flags and anthems to poetry—which act as visual representations of a people, their history, and their shared values, according to the press release. In another part of the exhibition, a site-specific installation, more than 300 camellia petals memorialize the number of documented lynchings that took place in Alabama after Reconstruction and into the twentieth century (1877–1943).

Installation view, “Bethany Collins: My destiny is in your hands” at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

Collins is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice critically explores the interaction of race and language along with notions of home and belonging. A Montgomery native now based in Chicago, Collins graduated cum laude from UA and went on to receive the MFA from Georgia State. She has had solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, University of Kentucky, Illinois State University, the Center for Book Arts in New York, Davidson College, and the Birmingham Museum of Art, among others and been included in numerous group exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Print Center in Philadelphia and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in art history and studio art, visit our Degree Programs page.