I keep unknowingly gravitating to Katherine Bradford’s work. This fall, on a very brief visit to Maine I was at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, viewing a new acquisitions exhibit and came across her painting Fear of Dark which transfixed me. It captured perfectly a single feeling, a snapshot that welled up in me, that isolation and endurance we’d all felt during the pandemic.
I was thinking of this painting again in a moment of connecting the dots when I randomly came across this piece yesterday, written by her son in 2016, titled How About a Little Badass Inspiration.
In it, he explains how his single mother of two went back to school at the age of 40 to get her MFA. Was dedicated for years in Greenpoint to making her work, teaching.
She kept up this routine for years, unwavering. She turned 50, then 60, and while she saw certain successes, we could tell she wasn’t satisfied. She’d speak of the difficulty of getting a gallery owner’s attention in a world populated by young up and comers, the very students she’d spent time teaching were now out there making their own marks, passing her by, even.
About the time she turned 70, my mother eased up on her teaching, but she didn’t ease up on her art. In fact, she painted with more focus and fury. She took on bigger canvases and made bolder statements.
And lo and behold, the art world began to take notice.
This of course fits in nicely with my appreciation of those who finally get the recognition they deserve.
Bradford, with her funny, somewhat awkward figures draw me in with their vulnerability. The obviously well thought out color that vibrates off the canvas. I love that I fell in love with her work before knowing anything about the artist.
Look at this beauty that she recently posted on Instagram:
Buoyancy and endurance.