Katherine Bradford, Motherhood, 2021. Acrylic on canvas. 80 × 68 inches (203.2 × 172.7 cm). Promised gift of Karen Swett Conway and Brian Conway. Courtesy the artist and Canada Gallery, New York. © Katherine Bradford
Katherine Bradford is a painter and visual artist whose work fuses color-rich textures with abstract figuration in dreamy landscapes. Her subject matter is diverse, from depictions of water scenes and the night sky to obliquely rendered portraits of athletes and superheroes. Not formally trained in visual art, Bradford began working professionally as a painter later in life and now divides her time between New York and Maine.
Bradford’s approach to figurative painting eschews traditional portraiture in favor of an atmospheric treatment that leaves the work’s references and composition open. As the artist explains: “I’m interested in making paintings that are about something bigger than everyday life—something very universal.” In Motherhood, bold blocks of color create the everyday scene of a figure sitting on a blue sofa with two smaller figures. From the title, one understands these figures as a mother and two children, one seated on the mother’s lap, and the mother’s arms outstretched between them. The artist does not add details to their faces or clothing, but renders her characters in a loose treatment; here, the effect transforms this painting into a work that explores the feeling of motherhood, rather than a narrative event. Overall, Bradford uses luminous color and gestural brushwork to make “paintings about enchantment,” infusing her canvases with feelings of both tenderness and care, as well as melancholy and ambivalence.