The Worlds of Bernice Bing

Bernice Bing Film

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AAWAA presents a documentary short film illuminating the life and times of visionary artist Bernice Bing.

“As an artist, a radical thinker, a Chinese American, a lesbian, a Buddhist–she strove to live an ordinary life in a profoundly non-ordinary way. Bingo’s life often went against the grain; her works were acts of trust and faith.”

-Lydia Matthews, “Quantum Bingo”

Bernice Lee Bing (1936-1998) came of age during a time when ‘lesbian’ was a bad word, racism was rampant, and women were expected to be housewives. As a young artist, she won a scholarship to attend the California College of Arts & Crafts (now California College of the Arts), where she was a student of Richard Diebenkorn and Saburo Hasegawa. After earning her BFA (1959) and her MFA at San Francisco Art Institute (1961), Bing emerged at the forefront of the avant garde and thrived in the heart of the Beat scene in San Francisco’s North Beach. Her large circle of friends included artists Joan Brown and Jay DeFeo. In addition to producing her own masterful compositions, Bing affected changes in the San Francisco art world and community arts organizations that continue to be vital today.

Bernice Bing's Ideograph, 1989, oil on canvas.

Bernice Bing’s Ideograph, 1989, oil on canvas.

Through archival footage and interviews with scholars, colleagues and friends, this film documents the importance of Bing’s art and life’s work in American art history. From her art studio in North Beach, to her groundbreaking community work and her later life in rural northern California, Bing chose not to follow the trends of the day and created art on her own terms. Her story is  an inspiring model for our times and this film gives her the attention she so well deserves.

“… she left behind exceptional paintings and inspiration for generations to come.”

– Janos Gereben, S.F. Examiner

In her essay, “Quantum Bingo,” Lydia Matthews writes:

“Hers was a powerfully sustained yet quiet career. This kind of artist can easily fall through historical cracks if we do not diligently keep her memory alive, for Bernice Bing avoided trendy aesthetic fashions and refused to engage in the kind of self-promotion that is often required for art world notoriety. Her idea of success had everything to do with the caliber of one’s acts and little to do with recognition, although she enjoyed success on both fronts. She consistently engaged the most radical thinking of her time, allowing it to guide her art-making practice as an abstract painter in her solitary rural studio…

Bernice Bing's Other Window, 1990, oil on canvas.

Bernice Bing’s Other Window, 1990, oil on canvas.

Envision a historical grid: three down, three across. Quantum Bingo–call out the numbers to see which histories inter-connect: One! Bernice Bing, the existential Abstract Expressionist, rooted in an international postwar sensibility; Two! Bing, the Beat generation/North Beach hipster; Three! Bing, the solitary nature-lover and landscape artist; Four! Bing, the urban community arts activist and administrator; Five! Bing, the pioneering New Age radical intellectual, on the cusp of interdisciplinary thought; Six! Bing, the Asian American woman artist in search of her cultural roots and diasporic community; Seven! Bing, the disciple of Chinese calligraphy; Eight! Bing, the lesbian painter; Nine! Bing, the devout Buddhist whose work was an extension of her spiritual practice.”




Executive Producers | Asian American Women Artists Association and Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project

Producer and Director | Madeleine Lim

Co-Producers | Jennifer Banta Yoshida and T. Kebo Drew

Editor | Amal Kouttab

Project Director | Jennifer Banta Yoshida

Treatment Writer | T. Kebo Drew

Camera & Sound | T. Kebo Drew, Liliana Hueso, Amal Kouttab, Madeleine Lim

Music Consultant | Meja Tyehimba

Music Performed by | Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra

Archival Video | Beth Beasley

Archivist | Lenore Chinn

Poster and DVD Graphic Designer | Choppy Oshiro


Kim Anno, Jennifer Banta Yoshida, Lenore Chinn, Nancy Hom, Tirza Latimer, Flo Oy Wong, Moira Roth, Ginny Stripp, Carlos Villa, Frieda Weinstein, and Alexa Young

Original concept inspired by the research and writings of Bing scholar Jennifer Banta Yoshida and Lydia Matthews.


The Bernice Bing Estate

California Lawyers for the Arts | City Lights Booksellers

Shari Arai DeBoer | Ruth Gumnit | Heather Hickman, San Francisco Art Institute

Laurie Hida & Stuart Main | Jay-Marie Hill

Thomas Hughes & Kaye Keith | Alice Jeung, Donor | Rudy Lemcke

Lydia Matthews | Queer Cultural Center | SOMArts

Anne Marie Theileu, SCRAP | Cynthia Tom | Alice Wang, Donor

All of our generous donors!

Exceptionally special thanks to Anthony Brown, Ph.D., and the friends of Bernice Bing.


San Francisco Arts Commission | The San Francisco Foundation | Cal Humanities, an independent non-profit state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information visit