Alice Bindeman, 86

Alice Bindeman, 86, Dies; Sculptor and Painter Captured the Warmth of Her Subjects

Alice Bindeman, in her studio last year, captured
Alice Bindeman, in her studio last year, captured "humanity in all of its weaknesses and strengths," artist Rima Schulkind told Bethesda Magazine. (By Patrice Gilbert)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 17, 2009

Alice Bindeman, 86, an artist and sculptor whose warmly human studies of potbellied cowboys, proper matriarchs and aging athletes delighted audiences and critics, died of lung cancer Aug. 4 at Suburban Hospital. She lived in Bethesda.

Mrs. Bindeman worked as an artist from her childhood in New York City until her death and received a major career retrospective in 2007 at the Ratner Museum in Bethesda.

She exhibited her work in major venues throughout the country, including the Corcoran Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art. She was successful as a painter and sculptor, creating layered abstracts in the two dimensions of a canvas and character-driven figures when she added a third dimension in clay and metal.

Casting her first life-size figure in bronze was "even better than giving birth," she told a Washington sculpting newsletter in 2008. She said her most-rewarding commission was the installation of the 195 cast hands at Newington Forest Elementary School's library in Springfield. The children there had their hands cast in 2000 as a memorial to a young classmate.

Others praised her portrait "Pietrasanta," a nude woman seated, leaning forward; "Matriarch," a queenly woman in a posture that reveals the corset beneath her dress; and the arrogance and apprehension of "14 Going on 15."

"This is what Alice does," artist Rima Schulkind told Bethesda Magazine last year. "She takes them with all their humanities and their pride and their hubris and she celebrates it. She manages to do this with humor and respect and warmth. She just truly celebrates humanity in all of its weaknesses and strengths."

Born in New York, Mrs. Bindeman attended the School of Industrial Art in New York and later drew for a French fashion designer. During World War II, she joined the Navy, where she created recruitment posters and taught pilots how to fly by instruments only. She was also assigned to the Navy's photo science lab in Anacostia, where she qualified as a story sketch artist for animated films.

After the war, she became director of the Columbia School of Art in the District and did freelance fashion illustration and interior design. After moving to Bethesda in 1955, she taught art in her home studio and at Glen Echo Park and Montgomery College, where she also took advanced sculpture classes.

"The joy is in the making," she once said. "All else -- recognition, remuneration, fellowship -- are the bonuses."

Mrs. Bindeman helped organize international art shows and taught seminar courses for Brandeis University.

While creating art and raising her family, she also volunteered at the old National Collection of Fine Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. She was a member of Adas Israel Congregation, a conservative synagogue in Washington.

Survivors include her husband of 63 years, Nathan Bindeman of Bethesda; three children, Steven Bindeman and Jody Bindeman, both of Silver Spring, and James Bindeman of Gaithersburg; and seven grandchildren.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company