Artist Bethany Collins Delves Into History Behind ‘Blue’

Stephannie Lenox / WABE

Artist Bethany Collins is obsessed with words.

Her latest obsession, the word “blue,” is explored in a new exhibit called “with the exception of the sky” currently on view at the Hudgens Center for the Arts through May 21.

After delving more into the history of “blue,” Collins discovered more overtones to the word and color.

“There’s this 19th century theory that it was a more civilized, developed trait to be able to distinguish between colors.” Collins said. “So more primitive peoples – and that was the nicest word they had for them – could not distinguish between black and blue.”

That theory was disproved by an anthropologist who visited more “primitive” people on an island off the coast of Australia and found that they could distinguish blue, but they just did not see a need to have a word for it.

“Blue as well – and this theory still holds – is the last color for us to name. Like as language develops, ‘blue’ comes last,” Collins said. “The theory is it occurs so rarely in the natural world [with the exception of the sky] that there is no reason to create this other term.”

Last summer, Collins won the Hudgens Prize, a $50,000 grant awarded biennially to a Georgia artist. With that money, she has been able to continue pursuing her career as an artist. She has also been accepted into prestigious residences across the country.

“I was teaching up until a couple years ago. It was six classes every semester … which was a lot to do that and keep my practice,” said Collins. “Just the financial stability of the Hudgens has allowed me to continue being a full-time working artist.”