Katherine Bernhardt knows herself as much as she knows her art. That is why she easily summed up her answers to all my questions with one quote from Jean Cocteau: “An artist cannot speak about his art any more then a plant can discuss horticulture.”
With the unfortunate state of the world, I ask her how she finds the positivity to create such vibrant works. She is the definition of feeling blue while wearing all the colors of the universe, if there ever was such a definition… “My teacher at SVA always told us that any place in the world that is struggling or having problems would create great artists. So great artists could come from anywhere since lots of people in the world are struggling in all sorts of ways. ”
“Monet went to Giverny to paint flowers and plants and nature in the middle of WWI. What’s the difference ? That’s what artists do… They see the beauty in everything no matter what. I paint in the ugliest city in the world and the most depressed area of the city and I still paint colorful fruit and flowers. I don’t know why. That’s what I like… color.”
You don’t have to be a genius to understand that Bernhardt likes color. A sight of her painting embodies more tones of red /pink /orange than you see in nature. I’ve said it in a previous issue before; grown up life doesn’t hold that many head-exploding-with-joy moments, yet the colors she uses makes one feel that way.
Bernhardt made an appearance in the art world with portraits of infamous fashion figures such as Kate Moss or Versace campaigns and now has moved on to pop-culture references such as emojis and Pink Panther, along with daily objects.
And there is nothing shy or plain about how she portrays daily objects. I ask her how she thinks transforming daily objects into stunning artworks has opened a new era for art. “People have always been painting daily objects. For example, the terracotta warriors that are soldiers going to war in daily life, Diego Riviera’s murals of daily life in Mexico, Pablo Picasso’s daily life of the women he was going out with, still lives from Europe, birth symbolism and Berber weaving in Moroccan daily life, Flemish paintings of daily life, George Caleb Bingham and daily life on the Mississippi River, aboriginal art of daily dream life, soldiers on Trojan’s column in Rome fighting in daily life. Anyway you slice it, it’s all about daily life.”
She listens to her instincts when it comes to working on a painting; to understand when it’s finished, or when to carry on adding details. She has no concerns about her work being misunderstood, as she quotes Claude Monet this time;
“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”
Just when I think there seems to be an ode to street art in her works, she says that her current pattern paintings are based off of some graffiti she’s seen on a wall near Union Square. As for what is next? Well… “I’m working on a mural right now in St Louis at CAM, the Contemporary Art Museum here. The wall is 25 x 80 feet long. There is a show coming up in April at The Dallas Fort Worth Museum of Modern art. Then I have a project at The Lever House also this Spring, which will be a huge installation of huge oversized paintings.” No matter where her art takes her, we’re envisioning her being followed by something like Holi, the festival of colors or sharing love…