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Katherine Bernhardt’s paintings are pleasing to the eye. Her pattern paintings mix images of everyday objects like a Windex bottle and cigarettes, or the Pink Panther with jungle foliage. Her work, which is on view at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth from April 8 to July 9, elicits delight with its vibrancy, Whitewaller spoke with the New York–based artist about the excitement of colors in combination.
WHITEWALLER: Your pattern paintings are influenced by Dutch wax printing on African fabrics. What struck you about them?
KATHERINE BERNHARDT: I’ve always been interested in textiles and Dutch wax printing specifically because of the humorous juxtapositions that are found in them, for example, Obama with toothpaste, or sunglasses with fruit. I like the funny mixes. My pattern paintings are also based off of some graffiti that I saw near Union Square while on a walk one day. The wall was white with different objects on it. The graffiti contained an ice cream cone, a rainbow, a smiley face, a dollar sign, and some other things. I loved seeing those things mixed together there, so I sort of adapted that idea of mixed objects and made it my own.
WW: What are some of the more satisfying objects to paint, given their shape and color, for you lately?
KB: I like to paint objects that could be found at your corner deli, like bananas and Duracell, or papayas and sunglasses, or Windex and toothpaste. Formally, these are all shapes whether they are rectangle or circular or triangular. They are objects that can be fitted into a pattern on a canvas. They are all fun to paint. Papaya is good because it’s a huge orange-color shape. Duracell is good because it has neat metallic colors in it. I am especially enjoying painting the toothbrush with toothpaste right now. The Aquafresh colors are very fresh and beautiful—cool blue and red.
WW: You’ve said, “I think the best painters don’t intellectualize their own art—they just make stuff.” Do you want a viewer of your work to approach it that way, too—to not intellectualize it and just enjoy the patterns?
KB: Yes. I’m not a writer or a philosopher; I’m a painter. I love to paint. And I make stuff. Most of my work is intuitive. People like to put their own spin on it, whether it’s commenting on the environment . . . or consumerism . . . which you can find in it, but it’s also just about the patterns and color. It’s mostly about color and color theory. Colors are exciting. I think that great colors and excellent color combinations are actually just that—great colors and excellent color combinations.
This article is published in Whitewaller Dallas 2017.