Jennifer Banta Yoshida

Cultural Activist, Curator and Writer, Jennifer Banta Yoshida has a B.A. in Art History from Mills College, Oakland, CA and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from the California College of Arts, San Francisco with her thesis project, What is the Mystery? Abstraction and the Path of Self-Enlightenment in the Life and Painting of Bernice Bing. Banta Yoshida’s work emphasizes the importance of documentation and intervention in order to disrupt the dominant thread of history with new perspectives and a much more complex, nuanced story. She is the Co-Producer and Project Director of The Worlds of Bernice Bing, a documentary film based on her CCA VCS Master’s Thesis Project. In February 2012, she presented her paper; Cultural Activism: How to Reclaim Asian American Art History at the College Art Association Conference in L.A. She is the editor of Cultural Confluences: The Art of Lenore Chinn, (2011). She is the curator of the The Future is Now: Asian America on Its own Terms, SOMArts Main Gallery, 2012 and Re-Claim: What Gets Left Behind, SOMArts Main Gallery, 2010. Her essay, “The Painting in the Rafters: Refiguring Abstract Expressionist Bernice Bing,” is published in the CCA journal, Sightlines, (2009). Her writings have appeared on

Read Banta’s article on ProArts Gallery 2×2 Solo: Rosa M. Valdez, curated by Eduardo Pineda

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About Jennifer Banta Yoshida’s Thesis Project

Jennifer Banta Yoshida

What is the Mystery? Abstraction and the path of self-enlightenment in the life and painting of Bernice Bing

My office, perched above the SOMArts Cultural Center gallery, is a site for exchange, community, politics, laughter, and ambitious cultural production. SOMArts, one of four city-owned cultural centers, has history in every crevice. The ineffable presence of those who came before pervades the space. Stored in the rafters above my desk, for example, is a painting from 1980 by Bernice Bing titled Burney Falls, one of several that she painted of that location in Northern California, sometimes called the eighth wonder of the natural world.Spontaneous moments arise at SOMArts, and I find myself in conversation with people who knew Bing. Her life had a catalyzing effect on a group of people who came together after her death to remember and honor her, and who remain loosely connected. 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.”

Bing has indeed largely fallen through the cracks, though in her time she was quite visible. In the 1950s she was among the first generation of postwar women artists active in California. After graduation she enjoyed a one-person exhibition at the Batman Gallery, one of several Beat galleries that appeared briefly during the late 1950s and early 1960s in San Francisco. Bing appears in the poster announcing her 1961 show, surrounded by her paintings in her studio above the Noodle Factory in North Beach, a hub of Beat activity. She received early critical acclaim in Artforum reviews by the critic James Monte in 1963 and 1964. It seemed to be the beginning of a promising career, but recognition waned substantially over the ensuing years, partly due to her difficulties in surviving financially as an artist, the time she devoted to administrative duties (including her role as the first executive director of the South of Market Cultural Center, now SOMArts), and her failing health.What were the conditions that contributed to Bing’s marginalization? This project reframes the decades of Abstract Expressionism and the Beat movement in San Francisco, examining issues of historical erasure, gender, and the quest for identity, with the aim of expanding the art historical canon to accommodate the visionary painter Bernice Bing.

Read Sightlines Article