Arts and Culture

Colorado Springs Artist Heather Bingham on the Joy and Terror of Running Downhill

As the daughter of a U.S. Air Force chaplain, Heather Bingham got to see a little bit of the world as a child: she was born in Turkey and spent several years on the island of Crete before her family moved back to Colorado Springs. And it was during her last year of high school in Colorado that Bingham's art career got off to a nice start. Her first oil painting, American Mona, won a regional Congressional art contest and it was shown in the U.S. Capitol in 2000.

Bingham then attended the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where she met her now-husband, Dustin. She was also introduced to non-figurative art and avant-garde through the tutelage of Lenore McKerlie and Louis Cicciotello. At the same time, she spent time around Dustin's locally-renowned dream-pop band, Eyes Caught Fire, and was inspired by the music to develop her own visual style that seems informed by European expressionism. There is a quality to her work that seems to tap directly into the subconscious mind and communicating the imagery on that level to the viewer.

Bingham's first solo show, Running Downhill, opens at 11th Avenue Gallery, at 935 West 11th Avenue, on Friday, September 5 from 7 to 10 p.m. We recently spent some time with Bingham to discuss the themes of her current work, her love of fantasy artwork and how an introvert learns to transcend her self-imposed limits.

Westword: There's a dreamlike, almost mythological quality to your work and perhaps even surrealistic in a way.

Heather Bingham: The dreamlike I would draw the parallel with how some people think your brain is just processing your thoughts and maybe a lot of the time it's me processing deep held emotions or thoughts I can't quite wrap my head around. That's where the "empty suits" came from. That's a recurring theme in my art and a lot of that comes from being in offices and, "I know these people have souls but I can't tell." It's just that people who are enigmas in a workplace was always a hard thing for me to process and it became empty suits. It's just me trying to make sense of people confusing me more than anything.

There's a wash of pink in the otherwise seemingly black and white The Hunter.

There was a little bit of pink underneath the paint here and I faded it out and decided to leave it. A lot of things are happy accidents. Is that a Bob Ross term? You start with one intention and it ends up being something else. You know what? That's good. I think if everything in my life turned out exactly how I wanted it to I would be missing out on a lot.

I Cthu-love You?

I like puns. I think it's just from being around Dustin who loves H.P. Lovecraft and the Dungeons & Dragons stuff. I love the fantasy art. I'd recently become a fan of A Perfect Monster, the artwork website of John Baizley who is in the band Baroness. I wanted to do something kind of along those lines. This isn't exactly like his. I wanted to make something sappy with Cthulhu. I would like to get it published as a valentine in time for Valentine's Day. When I posted it to the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society on Facebook it got about two hundred seventy likes within a short period. A lot of people said they would marry whoever gave them this.

Why are you calling your show Running Downhill?

Part of the title of Running Downhill is that feeling of recklessness. I'm just going to book it down the hill and see what happens. There will be some hits and misses and that's where I am right now.

What were some of the perils of running downhill in that sense?

When I was first talking about quitting my job to do my art full time I was terrified to do it because yeah I had a low level job and I made a regular wage. When I quit to do art Dustin said, "Hey, the fact that you're scared maybe means you're going in the right direction." Some of the hardest things to do are maybe the right things to do. I'm an introvert and I don't like to put myself out there. And art will be putting myself out there repeatedly and possibly getting some rejection here and there.

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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