If you want a taste of fearless creativity, make a point to visit Kate Ladd’s Blue Heron Studio during December’s Chatham Artists Studio Tour. Her studio is in her house and shines as an example of her boundless imagination. Kate is one of the earliest members of the Chatham Artists Guild, having joined the Guild just a couple years after it’s inception in 1992. Kate’s artwork benefits greatly from her early experience as a decorative artist working for interior designers, and for herself, designing and painting whimsical artworks on the walls, doors and furniture of homes all over Chatham County and beyond. These works can be seen in many public spaces as well.
Acrylic paint is her medium of choice. Over the past 50 years she has lived in many places from Boston to Santa Fe, New Mexico and her paintings have incorporated a variety of subject matter like the American Southwest, florals, landscapes and more. Kate’s recent paintings are concerned with a love for her garden. Some paintings are loaded with color and quite representational. And others are more abstracted using only a limited selection of colors. “Right now,” she says, ”I am liking creating challenges for myself, then resolving them.”
And then there are the wonderful floor cloths! Think expressive and highly stylized design mixed with carefully thought out geometry. And she is a master at this. “I started making floor cloths because someone asked me for one.” Knowing nothing about it and being a very industrious young woman she took a class…and loved it. Now she regularly makes them in all sizes up to and including 8 x10 feet.
These functional works of art are very often commissioned works. Designed to coordinate with the colors and style of an existing room, Kate’s creative process begins as collaboration with her clients. Once designed, a heavy canvas is primed several times, then painted. Finally an acrylic floor finish is applied to the surface making these works of art extremely durable. Kate usually has several floor cloths on display and for sale during the Tour as well. A floor cloth by Kate Ladd is something to be prized.
When asked what she likes better – creating paintings or making floor cloths? “I like them both equally. They are just different ways of creating.“ Then she said with a wry smile, “But my best creative moment was my son Brian.”
So what is going on here – colorful representational artworks, loose garden landscapes, abstract paintings with limited colors, painted furniture, fabulous floor cloths, and works depicting the American Southwest? A not-so-subtle clue is hanging prominently over her worktable – a black and white photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe. For the uninitiated, Georgia O’Keeffe was an American Modernist painter who made her home in Santa Fe until her death in 1986. Her life was an exemplar of individuality. Most importantly, O’Keeffe was well known for shunning the shifting trends in the art world and staying true to her own vision. Asked about the portrait centered over where she works, Kate replied, “O’Keeffe is kind of a mentor.” When asked why, Kate holds on to her reply a few longish seconds. Then, from what seems to come from a deep place within she said, “Because she was BRAVE. And she painted what she wanted to.”