Objective: Students will consider their unique identities and be introduced to intersectionality using Bernice Bing's experiences to illustrate the many aspects of identity and oppression.
Bernice Bing was an artist of many intersecting identities and experiences. Bing was a queer, Asian American Abstract Expressionist artist who did not gain the same regonition as her male counterparts of the era. Sumayra Jabber in her article “Overlooked Abstract Expressionist Bernice Bing Searched for Identity through Painting” writes, “Bernice Bing, or ‘Bingo,’ was, in many ways, an artist’s artist. She was a well-respected figure in the San Francisco arts community during the 1950s and ’60s, but her Abstract Expressionist paintings have largely been left out of the movement’s subsequent history. It is, of course, unsurprising that the works of a Chinese American and lesbian artist would fall through the cracks of art history.”
8.VA:Cn11 Distinguish different ways art is used to represent, establish, reinforce, and reflect group identity.
Prof.MA:Cn11 Demonstrate and explain how media artworks and ideas relate to various contexts, purposes, and values, such as social trends, power, equality, and personal/cultural identity..
5.2.1.G Explain how culture, media, and other factors influence perceptions about body image, gender roles, and attractiveness.
7–8.2.2.G Evaluate how culture, media, and other people influence our perceptions of body image, gender roles, sexuality, attractiveness, relationships, and sexual orientation
HSS 11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.
ID.3) of the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards: “Students will recognize that peoples’ multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.”
Colored pencils or markers
Identity Axis Worksheet
- Watch the following short clips (depending on your student’s grade levels and prior background) to introduce intersectionality
- Introduce Bernice Bing’s biography and ask students to consider the many identities of Bing. Ask students to contribute identities they heard in her biography, list comments on the white board.
- Examples of Bing’s Identity are: Chinese, American-born, low socioeconomic status, female-identifying, queer, orphaned
- Begin a discussion on privilege. Define the term for students.
- Have students watch the following video on privilege: Sometimes You’re A Caterpillar, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRiWgx4sHGg
- Prepare students for their assignment by giving directions and distributing the Intersecting Axis worksheet available for download in the sidebar. Invite students to mark their corresponding identities: Identity Axis
- Conclude activity with a discussion or writing prompt.
- What surprised you today?
- Did you learn anything new?
- How can we use intersectionality to create a better, just world?
- How is identity important to art, and getting recognized as an artist?
- Where do we see privilege in the art world?
Extension Lesson Plans
- (Extension for older students, or advanced art classes) Facilitate a discussion on the challenges of being a queer artist of color during the 1960s.
- Have students read the following article, or summarize main points: “How Asian-American Artists Made a Mark on Abstract Expressionism”
- Alternate lesson plan, with narrative stories from women of color available here. “This activity is intended to help students understand the intense oppression that women of color face. Additionally, this activity helps students understand that all individuals, who identify as having more than one oppressed and denigrated social identity face more obstacles.”