A Way with Words

National Exhibition Register

  • A Way with Words Installation Hazelhurst Arts Centre
    Lee Bethel A Way with Words Installation Hazelhurst Arts Centre, 2022
    Watercolour, encaustic on hand cut paper
    Image Credit
    Silversalt Photography

About the exhibition

Lee Bethel is interested in the materiality of paper and how it can be cut, pricked, folded or arranged to create an array of forms, shadows and complex patterns. Her works often explore the relationship between object, place and memory. Her new conceptual body of work A Way with Words examines women, feminism and the domestic environment using song lyrics, names and significant feminist quotes. Hazelhurst Arts Centre commissioned Lee to develop this significant new body of work for the exhibition Quintet, which was on view 10 September - 13 November 2022.

Curated by Carrie Kibbler and Naomi Stewart. Supported by Sutherland Shire Council.

The paper cut … a moment of exquisite pain, a shivering wound as paper slices skin, a juncture in time when artist fuses material and gesture to create objects at once sensual and beautiful … underpinned by a whip smart feminist edge. That edge is from paper artist Lee Bethel whose work, often process driven by the material possibilities of paper cutting, folding and repetition is here propelled by history-making-women, catalysts for Bethel’s current body of work.

Helen Reddy’s Grammy Award winning I am Woman was Bethel’s school anthem and then later … The Misogyny Speech by Julia Gillard, a pivotal moment for women. Each spoke to a moment in time. Gillard’s words “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man …” delivered in parliament in 2012, are today the pulse to Julia’s Tablecloth and one of six works on exhibition. Here Bethel’s large-scale panels with text cut out, actively disrupt the paper’s surface integrity, are lit creating the sense of relief sculpture. Long shadows cast from the “tablecloth” metaphor the wake of history gone before and the visibility of the artist’s intent. That intent is witnessed too in Helen’s Tablecloth. Constructed of 42 connecting circles with a line from I Am Woman cut out on each d’oyley/plate it casts further back in history. Hand-cut ornate lace-like script throws shadows and reflections across the table underneath, one paying homage to Judy Chicago’s seminal work, The Dinner Party 1974-79. “I am committed to drawing attention to how women work around boundaries to be heard and seen, to creating work that is aesthetically beautiful, pretty, domesticated, laboured, that on closer viewing reveals disturbing truths and unveils attitudes that haven’t changed since I was 14.”

Counting the Dead, the chilling record naming women killed by domestic violence in 2021 and 2022. This delicate charged creation takes its title from the Destroy the Joint Facebook group. Group researchers listed every woman dead as a result of domestic violence since 2012. Using statistics from the past two years Bethel has cut out each woman named, using elegant copper plate script, dipped in encaustic wax, a technique enabling the paper to build dimension and welcome light. Hung like a lace tablecloth the meticulously made pale pink paper chains, carry the heart stopping reality that little has changed in the social and political landscape for women – on average one woman per week dies of domestic violence in Australia.

A way with words, propelled by an imperative to question that landscape via beautifully made paper sculptures as delicate as a butterfly wing and at a scale at once majestic and immersive, suggests that Bethel is at the stellar heights of her practice. Watch closely this clever creatrix, who grew up with paper - a Dad a bookbinder, a Mum a manager of a printing factory, and a school holiday job collating books - watch closely to see where next the gravitas of her message takes her.

- Catalouge Essay, written by Courtney Kidd

Artists and Curator

Available Dates and
Exhibition Details

Available dates
01/01/2023 - 24/12/2024
Exhibition size
Between 50-75 sq or running metres
Originating state
Organised by
Hazelhurst Arts Centre
$0 (inc. freight) - Contact to discuss
Web Site
Accompanying materials available
Digital Catalogue
Other materials
Digital Catalogue, Education Kit, Exhibition Tour Manual, Interpretative/Didactic Panels, Media Kit, Public Program Opportunities, Public Workshops
Primary contact
Carrie Kibbler
Hazelhurst Arts Centre
0417 494 599
Secondary contact
Naomi Stewart
(02) 85365738
Courtesy the Artist