Katherine Bradford on Bathers / by Kyrae Cowan

A fair transcription from the second segment of Modern Art Notes Podcast (my faves) Episode No. 314 with An-My Lê and Katherine Bradford perspectively.

I was excited to do this transcription this weekend because the composition in the video I'm currently writing for also includes women juxtaposed waterside a particular landscape, though I assigned the landscape to suffice a space their positions would require. It is indeed inferred, in painting canon, that these women may be bathers, but on the contrary..

Katherine Bradford: I don’t use the word bather because that seems like another century, the idea of people bathing— at beaches, I don't think we do that. 

Tyler Green: I mean, thats, thats an interesting and grounding point and the bathers tradition is particularly of French Art History right through Matisse, and Picasso and probably later. —And in recent years it has been Photographers, such as Rineke Dykstra or Richard Misrach who have picked it up most— were you interested in the bather tradition or did it work its way in the paintings more as swimmers as one may see off of the new York Coast?

KB: I think the second one, I think—the bather tradition irritates me a little bit because those French painters that you mentioned, many of them had nude women— they’d do a beautiful seaside scene and then the nude women would be added; they'd be kind of cavorting and I saw that as using the female as kind of a symbol of natural mother nature, the — you know, again, taking the woman’s body and using it for the male gaze and as a woman making “swimmer paintings” I feel like I am in the water with my figures; I’m not looking at them, its my experience being a swimmer is what I am talking about.

TG: whats, you know, one of the things that are interesting about that in terms of your thinking of yourself as being there with them is that when we are in water and we see other things in water, like bodies, the edges are soft, the figures become indistinct, and — not quite lumpen, but you lose the ability— because of the way light moves through water you lose that ability to see a clearly defined figured and the thing becomes more visually rounded, and your swimmers are all visually rounded. You know, your not painting true to anatomy. 

KB: I like that phrase, visually rounded, sometimes I say economical.