Kate Trafeli | Interview

Kate Trafeli - Woman. Mother. Artist.

In this exclusive interview with Kate Trafeli, we dig deep into what it means to her to be not only an artist, but a mother and an inspiration to other female artists.

  • Do you feel that you are an inspiration to other female artists who might be starting out? 
  • Yes and no. I have been told I am inspiring on occasion which is a great feeling. I believe I am an inspiration for artists who have had a certain amount of life experience -- that doesn't necessarily mean in years, by the way. Artists who have had experiences or difficulties that have influenced them in multiple areas outside the arts, and realise that developing your practice *and* your voice are things that take a huge amount of time and work, and that other life experiences do not take away from this but add to our depth as artists. I occasionally receive messages from artists, male and female,who are starting out asking about how I have done X or Y in the art world, and answering those questions is daunting because the paths into the art world are so diverse and scattered with obstacles most obviously financial.
  • Are there any inspirational female figures that had an impact on you while growing up and to also you currently?
  • Absolutely. Although you may be looking for well-known figures, my heroes all are personal and although they should be well known are not.  My secondary school arts teacher, Claudia Halseth, was an incredibly talented artist and unusually gifted arts teacher in a school where the arts were considered not an important part of the curriculum. It is my experience that many great artists are terrible instructors, but she was the exception that broke the rule. She not only encouraged me and allowed me to work in the arts studios every day after class, she also helped support my university applications with portfolio and essay writing assistance which resulted in my being able to attend a university on a fine arts scholarship. If you are familiar with American universities, you know that they are incredibly expensive -- without her help I would have had a huge difficulty attending and I will always be grateful to and impressed by her especially because her personal life was quite difficult.  Today my biggest inspiration is an art collector and wonderful friend of mine. Her profession is as an Italian wine sommelier and her name is Amy Bellotti. She has faced enormous challenges in building a life in Italy, as I did (that is where we met) and has been a tireless supporter and cheerleader for my work and me as a working woman with school aged children these past 10+ years, through many extremely dark and uncertain moments in my artistic and personal life. I wouldn't be here in many ways without her as she was instrumental to my first solo shows in Italy in the early 2000s. As far as well known female artists, I have always been fascinated and impressed by Louise Nevelson. Not only incredibly talented and ground breaking but a ferocious proponent of her own work which, with her talent, enabled her to break through into the male dominated New York art world of the 1950s and beyond. Despite her success she still had to, as many of us will do our entire lives, work several jobs to continue to be financially stable. 
  • Is there a strong sense of sisterhood and empowerment amongst female artists in your opinion?
  • This is an interesting question because from my perspective that is mostly yes, and some no. At the beginning stages of careers there is a lot of camaraderie and support among female artists for one another and morale boosting within various modes from informal to formal. However, it is quite difficult to find mature and successful women artists actively working to 'bring up' new-to-the profession artists, and difficult to find artists who wish to 'mentor' even informally newer artists.  This is not a uniquely female issue at all, it is pervasive in our field, and a pity but because it is so extraordinarily difficult to be truly successful (in however one defines that) in the arts it is not simple psychologically or practically to devote any time to other artists. I think overall it is the insecurities of artists generally, not their gender, that causes a lot of this issue. In the museums and galleries today certainly there is a lot more awareness of and support for female artists although many female artists are hampered by being the primary childcarers in their families, far more than male artists which slows their trajectory and makes it that much harder to progress and just, work. 
  • What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given from another woman?
  • 'Always exude absolute confidence in your work, and never apologise for any weaknesses you see within it.' I think the person who told me that would not want to be named per se, but a famous woman said something very similar -- the incredible Julia Child, someone who succeeded in another male dominated field (fine cooking). She said  “No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.”The same is true for whatever happens in the studio. Which for many of us in these current days may well be in the kitchen! Mine is and I can't wait to get back to my studio, but until then, I am thankful for being able to work every day.