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  • Natalie Taylor

TODAY’S ARTISTS OF SAN MIGUEL: Animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Jane Bingham fashions sculptures in clay, which she then decorates with any number of other materials, to make the final works something truly unique. Almost all of them have some semblance to human or animal form, but none of them are straightforward, there is always a question in the viewer’s eye—what exactly is this, and what is it trying to tell me?

Like many artists, Jane’s path to what she does now has been long, and circuitous. She was born on Prince Edward Island in Canada (yes, the home turf of Anne of Green Gables). Even as a child she remembers always using her hands in creating objects, specifically she liked to make clothes for her dolls. Perhaps it was this early engagement with fibers that led her to study fashion design in college, and following that, she worked with batik, and painting which she exhibited in art shows. Then, in 1988, she discovered clay and found that this was her niche, she truly enjoyed making clay objects. Although she took a course in throwing, her preference, most likely harkening back to her desire to work with her hands, was hand building.

Clay became a full time career, and in the late 80s she was an artist at work, committed to it, and making money with her creations.  She specialized in tableware which she sold wholesale to stores, establishing a unique line. David, her husband, was an integral part of this work, becoming trained in pouring mold for the bowls, cups, and plates they were creating. But Jane was in charge of all the hand crafted objects.

After some time, Jane began adding sculpture to her line of tableware. In 2003, they decided to take the winter off and travel to San Miguel. It was here that she came face to face with all the papier Mache figures and masks, and became fascinated by them. Soon she was creating masks in the shape of birds,

and then went on to larger sculptures featuring animal and women’s faces. Jane had her first gallery showing in San Miguel at Galeria San Francisco in 2015, where she featured three figures. By then, the city, and its artistic community had gotten under her skin, and soon she and David became full time residents in San Miguel.

Jane’s studio is in her home, close at hand, and ready for her whenever she wishes. She has continued to evolve in the way she fashions her sculptures. In the past she made them from a slab. In other words, a large chunk of clay which one shapes. She now prefers a different method. She begins with a solid piece but then hollows it out, fires it, and then adds the other embellishments.

All the pieces get an underglaze, and they are always layered, adding color through different glazes and underglazes, a process she has perfected over the years. The sculpture with which Jane posed was truly intriguing. A bust of a woman with an enigmatic facial expression, and an iguana climbing on her head. It is quite beautiful in its strangeness.

Once a piece is completed, the next stage is the addition of color. Her studio holds a panoply of paints, glazes, and a multitude of objects to be integrated onto any given sculpture. Samples of different color glazes are displayed on shelves, allowing her to choose the appropriate one for each piece. She sometimes adds color with acrylic paint, metal pieces—as molded metal made to resemble ears, or colorful ribbons. She likes using recycled material, particularly metal.

Many of the sculptures look very much like masks, animal faces—cats, zebras, rabbits—with floppy or standing ears made of scraps of metal, or wood. Long, colorful ribbons give the idea of strands of hair or fur.

In addition to her sculptures, Jane has also been making mono-prints. One of the techniques she has added is called chine colle, a unique printmaking process which allows the printmaker to print on fine surfaces such as delicate Japanese paper. The result can provide a background color behind the printed image that is different from the backing sheet. It is a way to incorporate collage into mono-prints.

Jane Bingham will be exhibiting many of her pieces in her upcoming show at Galeria San Francisco in Fabrica Aurora. The opening will be on Saturday, February 3 from 5pm to 8pm. She will be presenting eleven new sculptures, and three brand new mono prints. None of these have yet been seen either in person or in photos. It promises to be an exciting event.

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