It’s a grey and rainy afternoon when I arrive at painter Katherine Bernhardt’s studio, a former car detailing shop with window decals still in place, on a quiet block of Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. But the environment the rising star ushers me into is, by comparison, a tropical paradise.
Despite her having just closed three concurrent solo shows at the New York and L.A. locales of Venus (formerly Venus Over Manhattan and Venus Over Los Angeles) and Carl Freedman, the long, narrow space is bursting at the seams with brightly colored, electric paintings of watermelons, sharks, and bananas. Some lay on the paint-splattered cement floor, drying; others are rolled in plastic or propped up on empty paint buckets against the walls. But to get to this painter’s haven, brimming with spray paint and gallon jugs of acrylic in infinite lush colors, you must pass through a lair of Moroccan rugs, piled high and tacked across the walls. It’s an ideal playground for Bernhardt’s four-year-old son Khalifa, who alternates climbing and lounging on the stacks and goes relatively unnoticed save for his scattered Mack Trucks and toy cars. But it also serves as a well of inspiration for Bernhardt’s surprisingly codified works and the flagship for her Berber rug importing business.
In 2008, following a childhood dream to live author Paul Bowles’s stories of Moroccan travels à la The Sheltering Sky, Bernhardt visited a friend in the Peace Corps, who coincidentally was learning to weave in Morocco’s Valley of the Roses. “We were in this village with all these weavers,” she said. “We would go around their houses and see what they made—it was amazing—the color combinations, the materials, the textures, the symbols.” Soon after, she formed Magic Flying Carpets, the aforementioned carpet business. (If not in her studio, you might have seen it set up shop at the NADA fair or at long-time gallery CANADA.) “I’d always wanted into the fantasy of Morocco. Everything there is awesome. Like, everything,” she says, her magenta lipstick matching a purple cashmere sweater.
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— This article by Molly Gottschalk was partially republished with permission from Artsy.
“Artsy Projects: Nautilus” is on view at Nautilus, a SIXTY Hotel, Miami, Nov. 30–Dec. 6, 2015, from 12 to 5pm daily. 1825 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.
“NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection” is on view at the Rubell Family Collection, Dec. 2, 2015–May 28, 2016.