Artist's Notebook

Five Things: Katherine Bradford at Portland Museum of Art

Contributed by Ellen Letcher and Julie Torres / We are huge Katherine Bradford fans, and when we told Two Coats of Paint editor Sharon Butler we were driving up to Maine to see “Flying Woman: The Paintings of Katherine Bradford,” her retrospective at the Portland Museum of Art, she invited us to share five things about the show, illustrated with photos. We aren’t writers, and at first this seemed like an easy way for us to organize our thoughts. Still, it proved too difficult because, flying between us, we had millions of complicated emotions. For an exhibition that feels so important, so timely, and so thoroughly moving, reducing the experience to just Five Things was daunting.

Katherine Bradford is a “painters’ painter” and a hero who has mentored hundreds (thousands?) of artists, offering genuine encouragement and support in the purest form. To stand in front of her work is to feel Bradford’s presence, her power, her focus, and her reverence for painting — it’s a remarkable thing. For friends of Kathy, the show is especially poignant.

So, rather than reducing our experience to Five Things, here are Fifteen Things about the show.

Katherine Bradford paintings are disarming 

Katherine Bradford paintings are an embrace

Katherine Bradford paintings float weightlessly

Katherine Bradford paintings defy gravity

Katherine Bradford paintings wash over us 

Katherine Bradford paintings are a swift blow to the head 

Katherine Bradford paintings push and pull at us 

Katherine Bradford paintings band us together 

Katherine Bradford paintings transcend time and space 

Katherine Bradford paintings are vulnerable

Katherine Bradford paintings touch us in unexpected ways

Katherine Bradford paintings are a feast 

Katherine Bradford paintings address universal concerns

Katherine Bradford paintings offer us all a seat at the table 

Katherine Bradford paintings celebrate love

Flying Woman: The Paintings of Katherine Bradford,” Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine. Through September 11, 2022. All photos were taken by the authors at the exhibition.

About the authors: Ellen Letcher and Julie Torres are artists and curators. Follow them and their Hudson Valley gallery LABspace on Instagram.


  1. Oh. Oh. Oh. You captured her essence!!! 👋👋👋

  2. Never having met Katherine Bradford but seeing her photo on Instagram and a terrific example of her painting at Portland Contemporary Art Museum, she really is a painter’s painter and a storyteller. Her heroic figures are vessels of gorgeous colorful paint that’s direct and modulated and enviously simple. I can see little boys and girls dumbstruck by her work and deciding then and there that’s what they want to do. Of course, us grownups can be affected in a similar way.

  3. Wonderful! Thank you for this tender and appreciative overview 😊❤️

  4. Such a refreshingly personal experience of a show. I almost felt I was there!

  5. Fifteen so much better than five…with the power of three built into your construct you two have managed a wonderfully concise expression of the exhibition for those of us who can’t make the trek.
    It’s not often the gap between screen and real time is bridged so effectively. Big thank you for conjuring the work and the maker here…

  6. I love your choices. Wish I could get to Maine. I do recommend her interview on the Brooklyn Rail

  7. From Canada: thank you for the article. I so admire Katherine Bradford’s work and have for awhile- gives us great courage as painters in this time! Wish I could see the work in person!

  8. A beautiful way to bring us your experience of Kathy’s paintings.

  9. Brilliant! A perfect approach 🤩🤩🤩
    I saw and loved the show, and love it even more seeing it through your eyes

  10. Kathy’s work is extraordinary. I would think that every painting brings out strong feelings in the viewer.
    Thanks so much for showing the work. I love the way you presented it.

  11. Great way to celebrate these paintings and the show! Thanks!!!

  12. Fabulous paintings – well done Kathy! must be a super show – would love to see it in the flesh!

  13. One at a time, one person’s response summed up in a simple phrase. wonderful way to experience Katherine’s paintings. Thanks so much for this.

  14. Wonderful pairings of words with images. Thank you!

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