Interview: Artist Katherine Bernhardt on Her Slimy Collaboration with NYC’s Sloomoo Institute

The talented painter's tropical goop benefits three mental health charities

Artist Katherine Bernhardt—whose gestural, colorful and playful pieces feature a cast of nostalgic characters and iconography painted in a deliciously digestible way with drippy paint and broad strokes—teamed up with the Sloomoo Institute to make slime that ultimately benefits mental health organizations. While Gen X may lovingly recall the gooey substance from Nickelodeon shows like You Can’t Do That On Television and Double Dare, it’s had a recent resurgence via Instagram, TikTok and ASMR culture—thanks to the countless iterations possible and its stress-relieving nature.

For the collaboration, Bernhardt incorporates some of her favorite colors and motifs: watermelon slices, half-peeled bananas and fuchsia-hued goop. Dubbed “Hot Summer Sandía,” the slime (available in an edition of 1000) drops at Sloomoo Institute later today and 100% of the proceeds go to charities that focus on mental health: Sad Girls Club, Love is Louder, and NAMI. We spoke with the talented artist ahead of the release.

How did your collaboration with Sloomoo Institute come about?

My son and I were walking down Broadway one day and we saw the Institute. It looked attractive and fascinating, and so we walked inside to check it out. We then realized that Karen [Robinovitz] owned the place—and we knew her already because she’s an art collector. But we initially entered the building entirely by accident because it looked fun!

Can you talk about the everyday objects in your paintings and how you arrive at choosing them? 

I tend to choose objects that are basic and essential. I am attracted to overlooked items—but things that we are all familiar with, recognize immediately and use on a daily basis. Toilet paper and cigarettes are classic examples. I also am attracted to painting things that convey a sense of humor. If an item has an interesting formal shape, intriguing curves or an interesting color scheme, it catches my attention too.

You lived in Guatemala for some time. Did the experience of living there affect your artwork and lead you to be inspired to this collaboration?

Guatemala was a wonderful place to spend time. It is colorful, natural, healthy, historical, has great weather and the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming—and many of them are inspirational artisans making amazing objects like huipils. Anyway, a local tienda in Antigua was selling original kinds of homemade helado, including ice cream in the shape of a slice of watermelon on a stick. So I was inspired for the slime project from the design I admired one day as seen in a local natural treat. And because watermelon has always been a theme in my paintings, it fit into this project as it seemed like a natural extension of my artwork.

Did you use paint or markers to make the label for the slime? They are so identifiable as coming from your hand.

I painted them on watercolor paper, but with acrylic paint. They were painted large and then reduced down to the label size.

You mentioned your son has visited Sloomoo. What are his thoughts on sliming? 

We have been to Sloomoo tons of times. At the institute we have tried to experience sliming in every way possible. We have had a huge quantity of slime dumped on him. We love the different slime stations, and we have spent time creatively examining their potentials. It’s so fun and creative and artistic how you can custom make your own slime: you get to choose the consistency, the color and the scent so you can make whatever you want. It’s also relaxing and therapeutic to play with slime. Sliming is fun, and Sloomoo is a fun place to hang out. It is located right in the middle of SoHo on Broadway so it’s a convenient spot to go when you are out and about in order to do something totally different for an hour or two.

Your slime, “Hot Summer Sandía,” smells like Hubba Bubba watermelon gum—it instantly transported me to my childhood. Can you talk about nostalgia and your work? 

Well, I grew up on Hubba Bubba and tons of other stuff from that era too. I like the ’80s and grew up in the ’80s. I like the aesthetic of the ’80s, and the ’80s thoroughly permeates my work. In a way a lot of my work is about my nostalgia for my childhood, and you could say that my work has certain childlike facets to it too.

What do you have coming up next that we can share with our readers? 

I have a show coming up in Borinquen (ie: Puerto Rico) at Embajada opening 8 August. There is another show of my work opening in Margate (England) on 18 September at Carl Freedman, and I am in a group show at K11 in Hong Kong now too.

Hot Summer Sandía is available at 7PM EST today at Sloomoo Institute and Perrotin

Images courtesy of Sloomoo Institute