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Kansas City Creative Couples: Bingaman & Bingaman

The work of iconic Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is on display this summer at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. They’re part of an exhibit called FridaKahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico.

Kahlo and Rivera are known not only for their paintings, but for their tempestuous marriage, which sometimes influenced their art.

Inspired by Kahlo and Rivera, over the next month we are going to profile some of Kansas City’s creative couples on air and online. From ballerinas to sculptors to musicians, we want to find out how two artists make a life together, and how their relationship influences their work.

Molly Bingaman and Robert Bingaman

Molly Bingaman is a personal stylist and founder of Ladybird Styling. She says that her profession is a perfect marriage of her innate creative sensibilities and practical skills. Her favorite aspect of her work is the personal relationships she forms: “It becomes less about the clothes and more about inspiring a positive change.”

Robert Bingaman is a painter, an adjunct professor at the University of Kansas, the Fine Arts Advisor for KU’s Memorial Union’s Program and co-founder and contributor of KC PAC and Wheelhouse Review. Robert says he believes that Kansas City is a great place to be an artist or to just enjoy art. “The worst thing you can do with yourself as an artist is just wish you were somewhere else and not recognize the value and where you are at and to use it," he says.

On the value of personal space and independence:

Both Molly and Robert agree that having alone time to be artistic is key not only to the success of their creative careers, but also to their marriage.

Robert: My studio is my world, and she has absolutely no say over what goes on in here. Those are the kind of boundaries we need. I used to have a studio at home, and the only person to see my paintings was her. I would get more input from her than I needed. So, it’s good to have that sense of apartness and boundaries because we respect each other so much more when we get to have our own little planets to live on.

Molly: We are made of a similar thing and that’s just that the two of us need to be independent. So, when we have collaborated on some Ladybird projects... that has generally gone badly. We get there in the end and we are both pleased with the results, but the process has been difficult. I’m trying to steer his hand toward my vision. We’ve had big fights over color palette and just basic layout and design.

Though both Molly and Robert require their own space when it comes to personal projects, the two see eye-to-eye on many visuals aspects. 

On seeing the world in colors:

MollyI recognize that he has taste. I think taste is this thing that we both share. We both have a high standard for quality and a high standard for good design. And, even when we are just driving around in the car, we are both drawn towards the same visual elements we'll see out the windows. 

RobertWe spend a lot of time agreeing. If you walk down 39th street, 90 percent of the signs are just terrible. People are doing things that are visual and they just don’t realize it. That's part of the chip on the shoulder of anyone who does work that's visual-- is wanting other people to recognize that it’s not an after-school hobby or a well-to-do lady's Saturday charm, but it’s something that you need to look to professionals to be done well. 

On other creative couples:

Robert: With music or art, there’s a certain romance involved. It has a romantic quality to see people live that creative life. 

Molly: I think for creative couples, you have to really believe in what the other person has. When I think about Rob, I just believe in what he is. When we first met, he showed me some photographs that he had taken and I just remember thinking this guy has something. All these years later, I still believe that.

The Kansas City Creative Couples Series will air every week on KC Currents through August 18. 

Julie Denesha is the arts reporter for KCUR. Contact her at julie@kcur.org.
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