Jessica Bingham and Heather Brammeier at Jan Brandt Gallery

By Sheldon Gooch

August 8, 2017

  Burn Pile  (installation view)

Burn Pile (installation view)

“I am interested in the process of making tents, recreating personal childhood memories, and generalizing the typical childhood experience. However, I pair happier moments with instances that can be viewed as melancholy, moments that reveal the harsh reality of the human condition.”

These lines from the artistic statement of Jessica Bingham detail the motivations and influences behind her multimedia installations. In Burn Pile, an installation created in collaboration with her former painting professor, Heather Brammeier, this juxtaposition of childhood experience with harsh reality is embodied in a combination of burned wood and studio remnants. Together they create a faux playground that beckons viewers to reflect on their own makeshift childhood playgrounds.

  Burn Pile  (installation view)

Burn Pile (installation view)

With charred wood and cement sourced from her father’s own landscaping burn pile, Bingham composes a decrepit scene; however, the meticulous organization of these found materials introduces a sense of playfulness and exploration, inviting viewers to imagine wrangling themselves in the strung hammock or even climbing up the ladder. Brammeier’s contribution of canvas and other repurposed studio remnants, play further into this contrasting dialogue by adding touches of color to an otherwise muted space. This effective use of color and composition helps viewers to recall the burn piles, gravel mounds, and other makeshift spaces that fill childhoods with simple amusement.

  Burn Pile  (installation view)

Burn Pile (installation view)

Both Bingham and Brammeier are formally trained as painters; however, a look at this installation and the artists’ other recent projects might cause one to ask “Where is the painting in this?” In response, Brammeier would say it is right in front of you. For her, installations such as Burn Pile, are what she deems “paintings in space.” Throughout the work, Brammeier plays with viewers’ perception of the materials’ dimensions in relation to the space they are inhabiting. An example of this can be found within the glass casing situated on the left side of the installation. Here, Bingham and Brammeier respond to the glass casing provided by gallery owner Jan Brandt by placing found objects within it. When looking directly through the front pane of glass, the three dimensional chair and painted slabs of wood appear to become two dimensional forms. This subversion of perception encourages viewers to reimagine the purpose of these objects within the installation.

  Burn Pile  (installation view)

Burn Pile (installation view)

Thanks to the newly reopened Jan Brandt Gallery in Bloomington, Illinois, Burn Pile has a temporary home where it can be the catalyst for the imaginative flames of the Bloomington-Normal area’s residents. Through its subversion of dimensional perceptions and allusions to the constructs of childhood amusement, the installation showcases the effective collaboration of artistic concepts in a way that effortlessly conveys the artists’ related yet unique trains of thought. I look forward to what Bingham and Brammeier bring next to the Central Illinois art scene, both individually and as a pair.

Images courtesy of Lucas Stiegman.


Sheldon Gooch is a junior art history undergraduate at Illinois State University with a special interest in contemporary art since the 80s. Sheldon is currently an intern with Jan Brandt Gallery and is employed at University Galleries. Recently, he curated an apartment show entitled Distressed, Grotestque, & Well Expressed featuring the work of Lucas Stiegman and Marisa Boyd. Sheldon plans to continue curating shows in alternative spaces while growing as a writer and lover of art.