The next thing Bingaman knew, the museum's executive director,
Hartman was captivated by Bingaman's new swimming pool paintings -- presented as luminous blue geometric shapes surrounded by inky darkness -- when they flashed on the screen roughly midway through Bingaman's artist talk.
"Bingaman's pool paintings are provocative, simultaneously evoking an aura of sensuality and intrigue. In their spare beauty, they are at once abstract and referential," Hartman said in a recent email.
In the same week that Hartman offered him a show, Bingaman was invited to join Haw Contemporary gallery. Earlier, Kemper curator
Why the tremendous response? Maybe it's that spark of pre-recognition that the paintings set in play.
The pools in Bingaman's paintings are not fitness center pools, with lane ropes and nearby stacks of paddleboards and racks of waterweights.
Bingaman's empty pools play to deep-seated longings to escape and relax in buoyant solitude. Like "giant night lights," as he calls them, these glowing beacons in the darkness carry a promise of safety.
For the artist, the pared-back pools also function as a symbol "of what we want in life."
"Growing up, my parents always talked about digging a pool," he said. "It was a status symbol to me. As I grew older it mixed in with the notion that I'm probably never going to have a pool."
When his parents did dig a pool during Bingaman's freshman year in college, "I realized, 'We're getting a pool.' Then I thought, 'No. This is their pool.'"
Bingaman started painting pools when he was in grad school at Washington University in
By contrast, the current pool paintings combine an
Bingaman finds his pool images online and then pares them down "so they become something else," a symbol rather than a description of a pool that exists.
The addition of details -- a black handrail leading down into the water in one image, the rectangular skimmer near the water's surface in another -- is carefully considered. The skimmer opening "was a nice little spot of abstraction," Bingaman said, and "I made it light."
To begin, he traces the pool shape with masking tape and applies a layer of vibrant color to the background.
"It's important where they are in space," Bingaman said. "I'm seeking a specific perspective. It needs to be close, but not in your possession."
After sanding down the colored underlayer, he uses black acrylic to get the dark background and oil to achieve that luminous blue water. Finally, he adds a layer of oil glaze over the whole.
"I love painting subject matter that's still," he said. "I like the vibration between the movement of (making the) depiction, and the stillness of what is depicted."
Bingaman is well aware that he has a formidable predecessor because pools have long been a signature subject of British artist
"Hockney's pools are about swimming," he said. "Mine are about standing by the pool."
He opened his talk at the Nerman by explaining, "I make paintings of things I care about."
Pools are one of them, rooted in childhood memories, but overlaid with an adult appreciation of their emotional and symbolic power and an artist's eye for their formal possibilities.
Bingaman is unapologetic about the romanticism of his pools.
"They're atmospheric landscape paintings, attached to a sense of space and place," he said.
Although their inspiration is personal, Bingaman's pool paintings appeal to one and all. They invite us to summon our memories, project our longings and lose ourselves in their alluring polygons of blue.
"Night Pools --
Here's what else is going on this summer:
"Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," through
The Nelson's summer blockbuster features more than 200 recently excavated objects from Saudi Arabia. Ranging from expressive funerary stelae in the form of human figures to gigantic sculptures of ancient kings, the exhibit rewrites the region's history, from desert outpost to dynamic crossroads of cultural exchange. Videos, a smelling station and plenty of opportunities for hands-on interaction make this ancient material come alive.
"Across the Indian Country: Photographs by
Mounted in anticipation of the museum's big Plains Indians exhibition, which opens
"Conversations -- Marking 20 Years,"
The museum celebrates its 20th anniversary with an exhibit of works from the permanent collection, curated by the museum's director,
Kemper at the Crossroads
"The Center Is a Moving Target," through
Dziedzic explores new directions in regionalism in this exhibit of works by 12 area artists whose work taps global issues and art trends.
Kemper at the Crossroads,
This exhibit of
"Contemporary American Indian Art: The Nerman Museum Collection," through
At the Nelson's request, Hartman has extended the run of this exhibit of contemporary works, originally set to close in mid-May, into September, so that visitors to the big Plains Indians exhibit will have an opportunity to see it.
This powerful 75-minute video, created in
Kahn explores contemporary issues in scenarios that "revolve around groups of medical professionals stationed in newly built, vacant homes as they prepare for impending emergencies," the gallery's release says.
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