Playlists from Karen Tate

Karen Tate is the Advancement & Programming Events Manager who works with all Speed staff to bring meaningful, relevant program to our community. She has been at the Speed for 6 months and looks forward to connecting with people again through events. As a Louisville native, Karen grew up with a close connection to arts and culture throughout Kentucky but gleaned affection for visual art, dance, and music.

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I chose to curate a companion playlist to Pieter van Roestraten’s self-portrait because I was drawn to his bizarre decision to paint with spherical distortion. The painting is very small, dark, and the hanging orb seems to be suspended in a black void. Its mystery pulls you in and then once actively looking you notice all the details of his studio. This painting feels both static and dynamic because of its anamorphic qualities and that’s alluring to me as a viewer and allows for interpretation.

These songs for were chosen to play off the history of Witch Balls – decorative pieces that were hung to ward off evil spirits and bad fortune. It makes you contemplate the supernatural, unpredictability of life, earthly pleasures and ultimately, our own death. Each of these tracks provide an aural journey about the beauty of life, death, and beyond. I wanted this accompanying playlist to feel macabre yet mystical and encourage the listener to ponder how our own existence is suspended in a void and filled with self-reflection, just like Roestraten’s self-portrait.


This playlist was inspired by the overall aesthetic of her lyre and delicate dress. The painting itself is very small at about 7” in height but is light, airy, and offers a snapshot into this young woman’s life. I imagine she is playfully twirling that lyre string around her finger while daydreaming about love. Her facial expression is peaceful yet coquettish, suggesting a sensual and whimsical side to this anonymous woman.

Viewing this painting transports me to a sunlit meadow, lounging in the grass while gently plucking a harp and counting petals on a wildflower. I wanted to lean into this relaxing vision by choosing songs that elude tranquility and thoughtfulness, just like this woman. Many of these tracks highlight harp throughout multiple eras and genres including Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, and more. I encourage people to study the complex buoyancy Kauffmann captured in this portrait while listening to these songs which perfectly encapsulate the idyllic mood of this woman’s portrait.

Angelica Kauffman (Swiss, 1741 – 1807), Portrait of a Young Woman, 18th century, Oil on tin, Bequest of Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler. Restored by income from the Marguerite Montgomery Baquie Memorial Trust, 1999. 1964.31.2

Marc Chagall’s vibrant colors initially pulled me into this painting but after looking closer you notice texture, depth, and peaceful expressions on the figures’ faces. The mixture of blue and green he used for the moonlit sky are a tranquil contrast to the reds and yellows of the town of Vitebsk in modern-day Belarus. I love the way the woman is tenderly touching her chest, signifying to the viewer that she has fond memories with the people and places below her.

For this playlist I chose songs that sounded “blue” and evoked the same dream-like feelings of this painting. Typically, the color blue is associated with sadness, but Chagall used these vibrant shades to accentuate a beautiful moonlit night. These tracks support his visual of floating, perhaps flying through a lucid dream or taking a quiet nighttime stroll with a lover. I included some songs from Belarusian and French musicians to represent Chagall’s inspiration from living in both countries with a mix of electronic, pop, and jazz artists.

Marc Chagall, French, born Belorussia, 1887 ‑ 1985, Waiting (L’Attente), 1967, Oil on canvas, Bequest from the Nancy Batson Rash and Dillman A. Rash Collection 1998.19.1

I love this painting because Edwin Ambrose Webster was inspired to recount his time in Bermuda in the early 20th century from memory. This house immediately transports you to that sunny island with bright colors and a blue sky. I imagined sitting on this house’s 2nd floor balcony soaking up the sun and listening to the sounds of the island with crashing waves, vehicles, and pedestrians contributing to the overall spirit of Bermuda.

These tracks are as sunny and lively as Webster’s painting and perfect for a day of porch sitting. Bermuda has a diverse history with African, Spanish, and Portuguese heritage and now considered a Caribbean island despite its geographic location. I wanted these songs to be as varied as the island’s character so enjoy a little bit of dancehall, calypso, reggae, and high energy pop to get your body moving and imagine paradise.

Edwin Ambrose Webster, American, 1869 ‑ 1935, Red House, Bermuda, 1920, Oil on canvas, Partial and promised gift, anonymous Louisville collection 2006.7.5