Bireline was born in Peoria, Illinois, and he earned his BFA from Bradley University there in 1949. He entered Bradley with hopes of becoming a cartoonist; he had discovered in high school that he could draw. “I really didn’t have any idea of what painting was, because I entered school for commercial art. I got into a painting class, and it was as if I understood everything immediately.” Bireline went on to graduate school, following his Bradley mentor, George Kachergis, to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in 1957 he joined the faculty of the School of Design. He didn’t complete his graduate studies until 1963, and in the intervening years, he learned something from all his various jobs that went into his work. He was a set designer (for Unto These Hills in Cherokee, North Carolina, and for the Raleigh Little Theater), he built models for Envirotek (a Raleigh firm that makes Buckminster Fuller-inspired building systems), and he taught. His students—both those officially enrolled in his classes and those he more casually encountered—are quick to acknowledge his profound, positive influence, which more than anything can be described as the encouragement to formulate and pursue their own vocabularies. Non-artists could learn much from this generous man as well; his informal discussions about painting and poetry opened their eyes and enlarged their horizons.
tags: NC art, NC artist, North Carolina