Katherine Bradford

Katherine Bradford

Fellow: Awarded 2011
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

During her four-decade career, artist Katherine Bradford has exhibited her work in about 140 group shows, and has had a solo show almost every year since 1978, most recently at the Edward Thorp Gallery in New York City. A resident of Maine since the early 1970s and of New York City since the 1980s, she continues to be a fixture in the art communities in both locations and a generous supporter of other artists, especially as a teacher. In 2012 she will show five of her paintings at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts.

She was a founding member of the Union of Maine Visual Artists (1975), which among other activities mounted exhibitions that gave some members their first opportunities to show their work; a long-time art critic for The Maine Times; and since 2009 an instructor at the Skowhegan School, a position she was particularly pleased to accept since she credits the lectures she attended at Skowhegan during the summers and the artists—including Lois Dodd and Guggenheim Fellow Yvonne Jacquette (1997)—that she met there as “so instrumental in laying a foundation for [her] present life as a full-time teacher and artist.” She is one of the few artists whose work has been shown in three successive Portland Museum Biennials, which are juried exhibitions.

Ms. Bradford received a bachelor’s degree in the history of art from Bryn Mawr in 1964, and after a long hiatus given over to raising her twins, painting as much as she could, and writing reviews of art shows for The Maine Times, she relocated to New York City, returning to Maine in the summers, and began graduate studies at SUNY Purchase (M.F.A., 1987) with a scholarship that included her teaching beginning painters.

When her children started college, she was able to accept teaching positions as a visiting faculty member at Illinois State University (1990-91) and Ohio State University (1992-93), before she returned to the New York City area to teach at the College of New Rochelle (1993-94) and at Purchase once again (1994-95). Since 1995 she has been an adjunct faculty member at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and since 1997 a member of the M.F.A. faculty at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia.

Although during her early years in Maine she was producing mostly abstract paintings, by the time she had her first solo show in New York—at the Victoria Munroe Gallery in Soho in 1989—her work had changed. As she explained in an interview with Chris Martin and Peter Acheson in The Brooklyn Rail (May 2007), “If you want to ask me point blank why I stopped being an abstract painter and reintroduced images into my work I can tell you. It was because I wanted more emotion and I wanted to tell stories.”

New York Times reviewer Roberta Smith wrote that “Bradford’s paintings are beautifully made, sincerely felt and distinguished by a special talent for schematizing nature into small, ruggedly made paintings that are at once poetic and humorous.” Her art has earned her a Pollock-Krasner grant (2000); two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City (2005, 2011); and unstinting praise from such prominent artists as fellow Guggenheim Fellows Chris Martin (2002), Stephen Westfall (2007), and Joe Fyfe (2008), and critics John Yau and David Carrier, among others.

In response to Peter Acheson’s comment in the 2007 Brooklyn Rail interview that her work, as evidenced in her solo show then being mounted at the Edward Thorp Gallery, had continued to evolve over the years, displaying a “childlike-ness or innocence” and a fresher, “more chance-taking” approach, Ms. Bradford responded, “I think [we artists are] trying to speak a language, a visual language, and it takes a long time to develop a very personal vocabulary. It certainly took me years and years to find my own voice. And I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with age; it had to do with sticking to it, and doing it a lot, like an athlete. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that you know what you are doing—you just have to trust in being the blind mole.”

Her work is in the permanent collections of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the New York Public Library; the Wooster Art Museum; the Portland Museum, Farnsworth Museum, Bates College, and Bowdoin College museums in Maine; Smith College Museum in Massachusetts; Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania; the University of Delaware; and a number of major corporations.

Katherine Bradford is represented in New York City by the Edward Thorp Gallery.

Katherine Bradford on YouTube (1)

Katherine Bradford on YouTube (2)

Follow this link to read "Katherine Bradford By Life & By Land, Recent Paintings," from the Brooklyn Rail.


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