NEW LONDON — In Marian “Bing” Bingham’s Chinese ink paintings, the steady practice of brushstrokes reflects centuries of tradition and bolsters her creation of works that are personal, modern and ancient.
“I think the wonderful thing about Chinese painting is that you study — you look at the bamboo and you absorb the way it grows — and then you paint it,” she said. “You don’t have it in front of you — you do it from the practice of the stroke and just more from the feeling of how it’s growing.”
Bingham, a former longtime resident of Connecticut, spoke at a gathering for her show, “The Chinese Ink Art of Marian Bingham,” at the Charles Chu Asian Art reading room in the Charles E. Shain Library at Connecticut College, on Thursday.
Born in Oakland, California in 1940, Bingham studied Chinese painting in China and the Philippines before earning her BA at Connecticut College in 1991 and her MA at Wesleyan University in 1995.
While at Connecticut College, she studied with Charles Chu, a master artist and professor emeritus at Connecticut College, who became one of her mentors,
It was at Chu’s house that Bingham painted “Flying Horse,” a striking piece in the show that will become part of the Chu-Griffis Asian Art collection at the college, said Professor Yibing Huang, associate professor of Chinese and curator of the collection.
In the show, Bingham also honors her first teacher — her father, Woodbridge Bingham, who was a professor of East Asian History at UC Berkeley and founder of the school’s Institute of East Asian Studies.
She said her father visited China in the 1920s and her parents lived there during the 1930s, which later influenced her deep interest in Chinese art.
“They brought back a lot of furniture from the 1930s. So I grew up with tables and chairs and certainly rugs. I remember as a little child putting on music and we danced around the patterns of Chinese rugs — and it was things like that that really sort of embedded an appreciation for Chinese art,” Bingham said.
“There was always a scroll in the stairway — they had collected scrolls and my mother would occasionally switch them out,” she said. “Those things were around, which makes you realize how important it is when you’re growing up – what you see and touch and live with when you’re little and how that embeds itself into your personality.”
Another piece in the show, “Black Bird,” Bingham created while in her 20’s when she was studying with her third important teacher, I-Hsiung Ju, a diasporic artist who later taught at Washington and Lee University.
Prof. Huang said Bingham’s exhibit was an excellent juxtaposition with Wang Mansheng’s “From Silk Road to Hudson River,” shown in the same space in 2020 — and two other previous shows: Charles Chu’s “400 Miles of the Connecticut River” in 2019 and the 2017 show, “Wang Chi-Yuan and his generation: Chinese Artists in America 1941-2015.”
Huang said that Bingham’s work demonstrates that an American artist can create Chinese art, and reflects the strong connection between the East and West.
“When people say there is always a line between the East and the West, I say there is no line. There are only bridges and roads and ways,” he said.
“The Chinese Ink Art of Marian Bingham,” is on view at the Charles E. Shain Library Charles Chu Asian Art reading room through June 15.
“Locations: Recent Work by Marian Bingham” is on view at the Lyman Allyn Museum through April 10.