Catherine Hudson — Painter
“Seek to do good, and you will find that happiness will run after you.” –James Freeman Clarke
For the last twenty years, Catherine Connolly Hudson has lived by these words. As a painter and a volunteer at the Helen Wright Women’s Shelter in Raleigh, she lives a life of creativity and altruism.
Cath Hudson was born and raised in England. Throughout her youth, she found creative ways to express herself. She would check out books from the library and draw the illustrations she thought the books needed. While she no longer has any of this art, she recalls a series called The Five Go Adventuring in which every few pages had an ink line drawing she felt should be in color. “I may have even defaced a few books in my time,” she admits with a grin.
Hudson always thought she’d become an illustrator, “But that didn’t happen,” she says. “I studied art [in college], but in my era, it was all about the Conceptual Art Movement. This was the time of the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, of Rachenburg and pop art incorporating everyday objects….Years later I find myself as a student again and wanting to become a painter, the one I thought I was.” She sizes up her environment as potential paintings, takes pictures and mental notes, and waits to be inspired.
To Hudson, the process of painting and creating is more important than the end product. “The process is seductive. It is a part of a conscious effort to let go,” Hudson says. This point is exemplified by the fact that she paints over everything. “I might live with something a few years and really like it; then one day, I paint over the canvas and try something new,” she says.
She documents the evolution of her paintings and sometimes even lets bits and pieces of past paintings show through to become part of a new painting. The layers of paint not only bring added textures to a painting but also “the remnants, like ghosts, provide energy to the canvas.” After a while, she may even discover calmness and closure to the paintings underneath. “Yea, I know it all sounds like therapy,” Hudson says, “but isn’t that what most art is about at some level?”
Catherine Hudson extends that therapy to others to help them cope with their own hardships. Once a week, Hudson volunteers her time at the Helen Wright Women’s Shelter in Raleigh. She helps organize meals and gives art workshops for the women in the shelter. Currently there are 36 women in the shelter seeking support for touch issues. “I used to be very depressed going there,” she admits. “I just felt sad and decided I wanted to bring these women some joy in their lives.”
The art workshops give the women at the shelter a chance to escape from their problems for a little while. It’s a chance to laugh and express themselves in a creative way when the rest of their lives are all about surviving. “We all laugh,” she says, “because it’s better than crying.”
Hudson introduces each session with examples of an artist and discusses why that artist chose to paint the way they did. After gaining some knowledge about an artist and a painting style, the women have the opportunity to create their own paintings. These paintings give an intimate insight into these women’s lives. A painting of a woman with no arms and of a woman with blue facial features and a caption that reads “I tryed” give the outsider a small glimpse of what these women have endured. Hudson never asks questions but says “A lot comes out. Sometimes in a poignant way and sometimes for a laugh. [Recently] a lady said her abstract portrait was all about her ‘ex, cos yea, he’s totally abstract.’”
The women keep all of their artwork. Hudson recalls a woman who, after making her way through the women’s shelter, was able to find an apartment and start a new life. Her new apartment walls were adorned with her own original artwork.
For Catherine Hudson, “art is the purest form of expression, which is so uniquely human.” She strives to not only seek her own creative refuge but also give back and help others find joy through art. “Art is more powerful than anything else we use as a measure of humanity,” she says.