Artist Profile: Katherine Corden Bellisario - Madison
Hi Katherine! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I recently married my best friend in northern Michigan, our favorite place in the world. Within the past 6 months we quit our jobs, bought a car, got married, moved states, started new jobs, and I just officially took his name. Woof! It’s been a whirlwind, and such a wonderful adventure.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
My career path has an interesting start, but for my generation I don’t think it’s uncommon. I graduated high school in 2009 smack dab in the middle of the recession. I always thought I would pursue a creative field of study, but at the time that felt like a very naïve route to take. I very tearfully decided to study science, which doesn’t come naturally to me but with hard work and determination I’ve grown to enjoy it. I earned my bachelors of science from the University of Michigan in 2013 (not without a distribution class or two in Art History) and then briefly spent that summer working for an interior design business and furniture store, which reignited my love for designing and creating. That fall I started working towards my doctorate in Physical Therapy at Northwestern University in Chicago and art again was pushed aside for a while. It wasn’t until after I graduated in 2016 that I had more time to explore painting. During this time I started noticing other artists my age marketing themselves on platforms like Instagram, and they were making a living. I was inspired. I started painting on the side and sharing my work online. As fate would have it, my stable physical therapy career provided me both the funds and time to invest in this artistic exploration. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our generation is obsessed with these “side hustles.” In my opinion they are the product of trying to offset the burden of student loans and continuing to pursue a childhood dream.
Were you always drawn to creating art?
I’ve loved art and creativity as far back as I can remember – they’ve always contributed to my identity. My mom teaches art and my dad also deeply loves art and creating, so I guess that explains it! I always took every art class in school. I entered my first art contest when I was five. I used to skip lunch in high school to go to the ceramics room and work on more projects. Looking back, I was frequently praised with words of affirmation regarding my artwork – something I’m sure has given me the confidence to continue pursuing it. One of my love languages is also “words of affirmation.” Coincidence? I think not!
Aside from the positive feedback, creating art is one of those sacred times in my day when my mind really calms down. It is when I feel most connected to God and gain the most clarity. I try to meditate and go to yoga, but nothing really grounds me or calms my anxiety like painting does. In that regard, it’s almost necessary for my well-being.
With your work as a physical therapist, how has your creative process shifted as you've moved and changed your hours?
When we were living in Chicago, I worked full time as a physical therapist and painted in my fringe hours. This worked initially, but as my art slowly gained more attention I struggled to find time for my friends and self care. I learned that “doing it all” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You can’t expect to do it all and do it all well.
This summer we moved to Wisconsin for Dave to pursue a one-year residency in physical therapy. We decided this was the perfect opportunity for me to further explore the possibility of art as a career while shifting to working part time as a physical therapist. Now I’m a PRN physical therapist (as in I work mostly weekends and random days to fill in for full time therapists) and so far it seems to be the ideal balance for fulfilling both my left and right brain cravings! My social life has re-emerged. I dedicate more time to self-care and quality time with Dave.
We love that your PT work influences your artwork in relation to your view of the human body. What is it that inspires you?
As a PT, I work with all sorts of humans. Most of them are experiencing some sort of pain, injury, or life altering event. I’m reminded on a daily basis how precious and imperfect the human body is. Our bodies serve us in so many wonderful ways, and their capacity to heal is astounding. When I paint the human figure, I’m very aware that my style is “impressionistic.” This 19th century art movement was inspired by the imperfect, often found outdoors and in candid interactions. I really identify with this style of work when trying to communicate my own perspective of life and the human body. I want to embrace the life lived in these bodies, along with their beautiful imperfections.
Lake Lovers is launching soon, could you tell us more about this series?
The first time I learned of the danger the Great Lakes were facing was ironically my first art show – about three years ago at the furniture store I used to work at, Betsie Bay Furniture. The show was a charity event raising awareness for the Line 5 oil pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac and poses a high risk for an oil spill. Since then I’ve slowly sought out ways to learn more about the danger the Great Lakes are in and how I might be able to help. That’s what this series is about. Lake lovers. I wanted to bring more purpose to my painting, to have a reason to educate myself and educate others. The paintings feature us – the people who love the lake. Some are of us walking to the lake, or even just our flip-flops we ditched at the entrance to the lake. The collection includes 19 paintings ranging in size from 8x8 to 20x30 and is releasing November 1st. I hope my collectors can find themselves in one of these pieces. 5% of the proceeds will be going towards Great Lakes protection efforts.
As you've recently moved from Chicago to Madison, how did you find a new creative community?
A beautiful thing about attending the University of Michigan is expansiveness of the alumni community. When we moved here, several college friends reached out and invited me to meet up for a yoga class. That day they introduced me to this sweet photographer who took all of these photos! Relationships have always been important to me, and I am so grateful to have maintained some special ones over the years.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your art?
Not having gone to art school, it took me a while to continue working on my craft and develop my own style. It’s hard to keep your head down and not let others influence your work, especially with social media. It’s definitely been a journey and I constantly am working on it, but I feel good about the place I am at now with my art. It feels like “me,” which can cause a whole other challenge, since each piece is somewhat a self-portrait. Sharing your work is very vulnerable, but that is why I love others artwork so much, it’s a beautiful form of self-expression.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other? How have women supported you?
So many thoughts come to mind surrounding this topic. I suppose I think it’s so important for women to support each other because I’ve witnessed first hand the power and influence we have when we come together. Collaboration amongst women is something I definitely started experiencing more of once I started my painting business. We have to realize that we won’t get anywhere without each other. I’ve gained some of my best friends and mentors through collaborations. Danielle Moss and Meg Piercy are two women in particular that took me under their wing very early on while I was living in Chicago. Meg recognized my love and passion for art and invited me to join her in two shows in the city and included my work in both her store and design projects. Danielle has welcomed me to endless networking events and introduced me to volunteering at PAWS downtown. She reaches out to me and talks to me like an older sister. I don’t even know if these women know how much they have inspired me, but they have without a doubt instilled in me this calling to pay it forward and look for ways I can inspire other women – especially younger women. The talented photographer who took all of these photos – her and I are growing a relationship like this. How awesome is that?!
What women bring you inspiration?
My senior year of college I lived with an incredible group of 9 women. I think the beautiful thing about our group was that none of us studied the same thing. There wasn’t an ounce of competition between us. Rather, we were and continue to be incredibly inspired by each other and endlessly encouraging. It is not lost on me how rare and valuable a tribe like this is. We currently are scattered all over the world, from LA to New York to Berlin, but talk to each other on a daily basis. They give me so much confidence; I really don’t think I would be pursuing my art if it weren’t for them. One of them just produced and starred in her own movie for crying out loud! Talk about going after your dreams!
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
Podcasts. I can’t believe the free education dished out on this platform. If you’re not listening to them you’re missing out! Some of my favorites:
Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher
Second Life by Hillary Kerr
Positively Creative by Dorothy Art (my interview is episode 21!)
Goop by Gwenyth Paltrow
Do you have a dream collaboration?
Anything with Anthropologie! There – I put it out there! I’ve loved visiting their store since I could fit in their clothes. It’s one of those stores I just want to live in. I would be over the moon if my artwork could be a tiny piece of their beautiful brand.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
How to most effectively and productively work from home. I would love to eventually work in a community art studio space, but for now I am adjusting to creating my own schedule and sticking to it.
What are some of your favorite places in Madison?
Every Saturday the Dane County Farmer’s Market sets up in the Capitol Square. It’s America’s largest produce only farmers market and they have cheese bread the size of your face.
Dragonfly Hot Yoga has $5 drop-in classes every Saturday and Wednesday. They also have some of my favorite yoga teachers of all time – you can’t beat that!
Ancora Coffee is a sustainable & organic coffee shop founded in Madison. It’s where I am currently sitting as I answer these interview questions. My favorite part – their awesome playlists. No headphones necessary.