I first met Katherine Bradford on a stage. We had both been asked to speak on a panelist of women artists, none of whom I had met prior, and I ended up sitting right next to her. Her quick wit, intelligence, engaging attitude, and availability really drew me in. I was excited to get a little tour of her studio space after the talk and we made a date for me to come back with my camera.
Katherine worked out of her barn for many summers, and just recently made the switch to a studio space in Fort Andross in Brunswick, Maine. She lives part time in New York City as well, but I was able to visit her just before she left Maine for the winter. Her work has a childlike innocence; the colors, the figurative shapes, the meditative environments...they are like dreams in painted form.
Read below for Katherine's Q&A and more photographs of her space and process!
Describe your work in three words.
Sparkly peopled landscapes
Have you always been artistic? Did you grow up in a creative family? If so, how did this influence you and your work/path in life?
My mother was a very visual person and loved art but she had a fear of the artist life especially for her children. She thought creativity led to sex, drugs and divorce. None of her four children listened to that part of her philosophy.
What kind of art did you first start making? Did you pursue art in college?
My Junior year in college I got to spend in Paris and it was there that I discovered the rich full cultural life that I enjoy so much now. I graduated from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and because they were basically founded on a Quaker model they did not have a studio art program but the History of Art department was excellent.
How has your artistic journey changed over the years? Especially adding kids into the mix…did you find that altered how you worked and what your work actually was?
I didn’t start painting until after my twins were born. Every step of the way has been pretty fascinating but I was very sorry to break up our family and the years of being a single mother were not easy. My son wrote a short piece about those years here.
How long have you been in this studio space? How does it compare to other spaces you’ve been in? What do you love most about it?
This is my second summer renting a space at the Mill building. I love the high ceiling rooms, the camaraderie of the other artists and the slow sparkly river flowing by.
A lot of your work seems to have a water theme. What is the significance? Especially the swimmers, which are some of my favorite subjects of your paintings. Are you a swimmer yourself?
The way I would layer on the paint started to look like water and then gradually I added boats and swimmers. This was a world I knew having spent my childhood summers swimming pretty much every day.
Do you prefer to work large or small? I noticed in your studio that you had an equal number between quite large paintings, and smaller ones.
I used to favor small works but little by little have come to enjoy doing both.
Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
Looking at things especially other paintings, my own and other painters.
What is the best thing you’ve done for your career?
What has been the most challenging part of being an artist?
Figuring out what part of what I’m making is actually good
What does the process of getting your work out into the world look like? It seems you have been pretty successful at showing and I wondered what that process has been like for you.
When I started painting I was living in Brunswick, Maine. We formed the Union of Maine Visual artists, organized shows and had yearly sales of our work in unheated public spaces. I was always aware of what was going on in New York and learned about the artists and galleriesfrom reading and being curious (no internet at the time). The best way to gain access to a gallery is to be introduced by an artist who shows there.
How has Maine influenced your work?
The fog and Marsden Hartley have been my biggest influences.
You split your time between Maine and NYC. How has this influenced your work? It seems like you get the best of both worlds! Is the art community in NYC very different from that in Maine?
If you want to move your work forward I believe in having the widest possible community of fellow artists. This can include many cities and many hours of clicking on images online.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I’ll be in my 80’s and hope to be like Lois Dodd, happy and productive and participating.
Thank you Katherine for letting me take a peek inside your creative world and sharing it with others!
Find Katherine here: