Works of Heart: Katherine Corden

Juley Le

November 6, 2018

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For those of us who don’t have artistic pedigrees or are subject matter experts, it can be quite intimidating to add to certain conversations. When it comes to fashion, architecture, or even writing, who’s to say we can’t just appreciate these artistries for no other reason than how they make us feel? When artist Katherine Corden invited us into her world, we leaped at the chance. For one, the earthy tones and quiet beaches she depicts in her work immediately resonated and had us yearning for the easy days of summer. And more, we wanted to understand what motivates a woman, who’s traveled the world, to celebrate everyday simplicities found in her backyard. — Juley Le, Founder

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Where do you draw inspiration from? 

Anything and everything around me – architecture, interiors, style, the change of seasons, the serenity of the lake, different cultures, gatherings of people… I love exploring and seeking beauty in the nuances and imperfections of both humans and nature. 

Growing up, my family was fortunate to travel to many places throughout North America, South America and Europe. Whether a city in the States or across the Atlantic, I found the variety of cultures fascinating. Traveling never fails to spark inspiration, but whenever I return home, I’m reminded of my immense gratitude for the region I live. I’ve yet to visit a place comparable to The Great Lakes, and I owe a lot of my painting inspiration to these waters, their shoreline, and the people who gather here. 

Traveling never fails to spark inspiration, but whenever I return home, I’m reminded of my immense gratitude for the region I live.

You credit your parents for introducing you to the world by taking your family on trips around the world. How do those memories influence your work?

I believe traveling at such a young age really helped foster an open mind and an ever-present curiosity. It is such a literal reminder of what exists beyond our small day-to-day lives, and it teaches you to appreciate the differences in people and cultures. One of my favorite things about our travels was learning about endless art and architecture styles. My parents both love architecture and design. My mom is an art teacher and the mom from the other family we traveled with is an architect. Spending our days with them without a doubt influenced my love and attention to these details in our world. My dad used to make us journal our experiences every night before we went to bed – something I found tedious at the time but am so grateful for now. Reading back on the journal entries, they are such genuine and honest glimpses into the blur of our days. Little impressions. 

On these trips I learned about impressionism and was fascinated by the history of the movement – I found it so romantic that it was inspired by the imperfect. Now, my artwork tends towards impressionism – embracing and acknowledging the beautiful imperfections in both humans and nature. I strive to incorporate loose brush strokes and unexpected color combinations, so that the figures I paint aren’t necessarily one specific person, but that the viewer might find them self or someone they know in a painting. I hope my work serves as a window to a nostalgic place – creating a similar sensation as reading a journal entry from an old trip.  

Above all perhaps, traveling showed me the endless possibilities that exist for how you can live your life. I’m sure these experiences have played a part in influencing my decision to further pursue my artwork and give me the courage to put it out into the world. 

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How do you hope your work impacts others?

As I have continued to paint, I’ve been trying to challenge myself to bring more purpose to my artwork. My most recent collection, “Lake Lovers,” was born out of a desire to educate myself and educate others about the stress that the Great Lakes have been under for quite some time. A portion of the proceeds is going towards Great Lakes protection. I paint pieces that I think are beautiful and that I would want to hang in my own home, but I want them to have the capacity to send a stronger message than just a pretty picture. I hope this series of paintings can spark conversation and inspire others to take care of the land and lakes that they love enjoying so much, while still complementing the life and love in their homes. 

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Katherine is a fine artist and physical therapist living in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband Dave. Katherine grew up in the Detroit area and spent summers either traveling abroad or retreating to Northern Michigan with her family. You can continue to follow and support Katherine’s art through her website and Instagram account

Photographs by: Meredith Marie Photography


Juley Le


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