Lesbian Art Herstory: Bernice Bing – a Chinese American Painter

Lenore Chinn on Bernice Bing from Rehistoricizing.org on Vimeo.

Bernice Bing (1936-1998) a Chinese American Painter and Queer Artist
Bernice Bing was a third-generation American Chinese born in Chinatown, San Francisco in 1936. In 1958, Bernice attended California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, but she soon transferred to the San Francisco Art Institute where she studied painting. In 1961 she graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with a Masters in Fine Arts degree. Later as a resident artist at Esalen in 1967, she was among the first to study New Age psychology. Later in her life she became a practicing Buddhist.

Bernice Lee Bing entered the San Francisco Bay Area art scene in the 1960s and she were to be there as an active artist and community activist until her death in 1998. As an Asian American artist and queer woman she visualized her dual heritage through abstract expressionism, Chinese calligraphy and painting. Bernice Bing states:

Existentialism was the first influence that persuaded me toward the abstract expressionist school of painting. The philosophical bases of existentialism – one’s responsibility for making one’s own nature as well as personal freedom, independent decision making, and the importance of commitment – were to me the attitude of the abstract way of painting. — Bernice Bing, 1998, Asian American Women’s Artists Association Catalogue

For 4-5 years in the early 1980s Bing was the Director, Program Director and Building Manager of South of Market Cultural Center (SOMAR), run under the San Francisco Arts Commission; SOMAR is one of four cultural centers at this time. She is also known for her active involvement in the Asian American Women Artists Association in the 1990s.

Selected Bibliography
Bernice Bing
Roth, Moira and Diane Tani, eds.
Exh. cat. Berkeley: Visibility Press, 1991.

Completing the Circle: Six Artists
Edited by Florence Wong and George Rivera

Related Links
Samples of Bernice Bing’s works
Bernice Bing’s Artist Statement