“The theme of Marian Bingham’s art is of horses integrated into a landscape. The horse has disappeared in modern day life – horsepower, horse and buggy, horse-drawn carriages. Though horse life has been with us for centuries, from the horse and chariot to the modern day rodeo, Bingham sees a lost knowledge: ‘Little kids hardly know what a real horse is, its smell, its locomotion, its long history.’
Bingham’s work hosts the illusive image, the forceful essence of horse with a felt sympathy. Her work captures the echo of the hose that is no longer a part of our lives. That’s why her horse images are ephemeral. Her landscapes integrate the places where she lives with the sense and energy and history of the horse. Her intent is to ‘honor the place the horse has had in the civilization of man.’ As is possible to imagine when we look into the sky, in ‘Nuage’ mythic horses formed in the clouds race across the sky.
Bingham has always enjoyed drawing landscape with an awareness of what is around her, the change of season, the shapes, the atmosphere. Where she is plays a part in her choice of color. Living in France has enlightened her color sense. Southern France offers her colors that are livelier, with brighter skies, and ‘riotous sunflowers.’ These bright swathes of color, so evident in the landscape of France, are reveled in ‘Hills of St Felix,’ expressing Bingham’s reaction to her surroundings.
‘In France there is an appreciate of color and how it lends itself to its interiors, its linens, its chinaware,’ she states. ‘In its plates of orange and blue and yellow, the decorative arts are more lively in color than here. There is a different light in contrast to New England where I live. Here the colors are more muted, more serious.’
Since 2014 Bingham has been seeing the openness of water on the Connecticut shore. ‘It offers a whole other luminous landscape’ she says. ‘I am respond to that. I am enjoying putting more of that in my work.’ This is evident in her tetratych, ‘Connecticut Shore,’ where the distant Long Island Sound forms the horizon with open light radiating the trees.
Bingham describes her process. ‘When I prepare my canvases I often add another dimension by applying gessoed watercolor paper. I do not frame my work so this process serves to frame my paintings. I also use color to frame a painting.’
‘Part of my preparation is to add texture for a slight 3-D appearance to the canvas. The glazing I do is a glasslike surface which consists of transparent layers of oil paint in medium. This way the colors are layered to give an added dimension and luminosity.’
Unlike artists who use paint to build up their canvasses, Bingham prefers, ‘the transparency of the glazing technique rather than using globs of opaque paint.’
Bingham traces her relationship with horses back to her childhood. ‘I was always in love with horses,’ she says. One of her first oil paintings was of a palomino. She recalls, ‘I had a horse farm in Connecticut. When I sold the horse farm I saw that horses were beginning to appear in my artwork. Horses are so expensive. Instead of choosing people I was choosing the horse as a vehicle for my emotion. Plus the forms of the horse were exciting. This integration has added to my interest in the history of horses in general, and this interest continues to challenge me.’
‘Horses are connected to me just as they are to human beings in social evolution. We don’t have the same connection with cows in our culture – maybe we do with dogs. However our connection with horses is innate – wether we know them personally or just have stories about them.’
“As a painter of horses, Bing is certainly not alone. And she is just as certainly a self-aware participant in a notable, and complex, tradition. But Bing is unusual in her panoptic focus, her desire to represent the horse as something besides a powerful, and perhaps ominous, natural force. Especially over the last two centuries – that is, for the course of the Industrial Revolution – the horse has figured as one of the most dynamic, if also one of the most elusive, leitmotifs in painting, and it is the multivalence of this leitmotif that Bing seeks to explore, with a focus as intense as its very subject.
Even in relatively straightforward, narrative depictions, such as in those of the American West, the horse has taken on a mystical aura, embodying at once the presence and the absence of human civilization. In other contexts, the horse becomes everything from nature’s perfect machine to humankind’s hope for transcendence. The synergy of horse and rider has inspired artists as disparate as Frederic Remington and Vasily Kandinsky; and the horse without rider has galloped through canvases as different as Rosa Bonheur’s and Susan Rothenberg’s.
The unfettered horse, note, has been a particular province of female painters – indeed, of female artists in all media; what for men would seem to be a feral, threatening creature appears to women as the very force of nature itself, even (as in Deborah Butterfield’s sculpture) when at rest. The horse alone is a constant presence in Bing’s work. But so is the horse bestrided – and, most unusually, the horse embraced, but not necessarily mounted, by its human counterpart. Bing seeks to explore the various facets of the equine presence in human consciousness, clearly regarding these facets not as contradictory but as complementary.
What is constant in Bing’s art is its technical and concomitant visual fluidity, its aqueous appearance and gentle but persistent texture. These abstract qualities would seem to essentialize Bing’s comprehension of “horseness”: she regards the animal as a manifestation not simply, or even primarily, of power and challenge, but one of grace and harmony. In its hippie universe, and equine universality, Bing’s painting reassures us that, while the apocalypse may be heralded by horsemen, horses themselves aver the sweet timelessness of nature.”
Editor of Visions Art Quarterly, art critic for the LA Weekly, and writes for many art and general publications.
“Marian Bingham, better known simply as Bing, creates idyllic landscapes populated by horses. These recent paintings continue to investigate the relationship between dreamscape and the less magical landscape of the waking hours. Yet, they remain a part of the classic vocabulary of landscape painting and thus evoke painting’s long history in rendering nature. Though born in California, her work quotes her study of Oriental art and the experience of having lived for many years in Asia, where she stayed in Hong Kong and Manilla. This information is not lost in her delicate brushwork, with its bold and direct contrasts between the paper’s whiteness and the charged areas of color. Using a palette dominated by reds, blues and yellows, Bing’s paintings demonstrate the power of line and color to deliver an emotional punch regardless of subject matter. In fact, though her subject matter appears common, the works have a “personal” content that bears on our viewing. Unlike the many horse paintings of Susan Rothenberg, Bing’s horses often carry lone figures. These expressionistic and colorful figures further accentuate the character of nature as a personification of human beings. With a gritty repertoire of lines and shapes, Bing’s paintings suggest a detached enjoyment in the ever-evolving narrative of humanity in nature.”
Freelance writer, curator and former editor of Flash Art,2000
“…the colours and the tactile quality are marvelous. So much more luminous than the postcards; as always….had a great time trying to figure out how you do your paintings…”
“Absolutely marvelous. Those postcard reproductions just do not do the paintings justice at all. The colours, composition, everything was amazing. I found myself reacting to them on a real gut level. We really enjoyed ourselves. Thank you so much, we are looking forward to the next show in the area.”
“[The] paradoxical character of…paintings—a delicate balance of description and abstraction, idea and image, process and product—is their strength.”
Lisa Lyons and Robert Storr
“Electronic imaging is changing art. Watching T.V. graphics, computerized marks and mechanized images of the natural world our eyes accept what our minds expect to be totally ‘real’. Inspired by these new ways of seeing, Bing’s surreal images evolve through the abstraction of natural objects via the computer and/or photographic print.”
” [Bing ] has lived in the Far East and her paintings bear the influence of oriental brushwork, with its directness, and bold contrast of light and dark areas – not to mention its supreme subtlety. I noticed that most of her compositions have an interior frame. This is so, she says, to set boundaries, but boundaries that can be broken by content which pushes against routine, and habitual limits. She has realized the boundary she sets … keeping a personal life, while letting fresh, unexpected inspiration into her life on a regular basis…Tartness is a vital ingredient in Bingham’s direct, honest mode.”
Contributing critic for the New York Times
“The recent paintings of Bing chronicle her reactions to a dream world populated by horses. The series of paintings, Horse Dreams, are lightly rendered and soft toned. These oil on paper works first appear to be delicate watercolors. Yet the medium of oil intimates a wonderful materiality ironic for their subject matter. They are classic landscapes evocative of paintings long history of rendering nature. Consequently. they also display a lightness of being we associate with the open landscape, the idyll. This lightness is further enhanced by their relatively small scale (most of them measuring less than 10 x 15 inches) enhancing their objectified beatification of nature.
“The lone human bodies in some of Horse Dreams (perhaps a reference to the artist herself) who drape themselves or sprawl across the horses’ torsos offer an eroticized charge amid the idyllic landscape. Dominated by a palette of primary colors, particularly light reds, blues, and background yellows, Bing’s paintings also evoke the power of color to communicate emotion. These new paintings radiate an air of enjoyment and reverie offering an open-ended narrative for the viewer.”
Flash Art Magazine