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Paint It Loud

“When I started, I wanted to paint things that had nothing to do with each other, that made no sense,” says Katherine Bernhardt. “That was the goal: nothingness. And what were the brightest, craziest color combinations I could come up with, that would clash?”

Bernhardt—44 years old, sporting a Daisy Duck T-shirt, enormous earrings from a local fabric store, and flashy neon-pink-laced Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35s with a floral print—is holding court in her studio, a converted auto-repair shop in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. She pegs her personal style as “tropical, futuristic hippie,” and that's not far off from some of the paintings she makes; the space is brimming with huge works that exude an eye-popping swagger. In one, a spray-painted Pink Panther hangs out with two high-speed bullet trains modeled on the Shinkansen that Bernhardt rode with her son during a recent trip to Japan. A wobbly painting of the infamous oversized Triple S sneaker by Balenciaga outs her as a sneakerhead. (She's also enough of a Nike fanatic that she has her own hand-drawn swoosh tattoo.) There's a massive pile of soft-sculpture gummy worms stacked up in one corner, leftovers from Concrete Jungle Jungle Love, a 2017 takeover of New York's Lever House, for which Bernhardt created a sprawling environment. “Now that I look back at it, it was kind of too much,” she reflects. “Too much color, too much of everything.…”...

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