Artist, Activist, Mother, Daughter, Middle of Three Sisters and Treasured Friend
Kate True—artist, activist, mother and daughter, middle of three sisters, treasured friend—passed away at her home in Roxbury two days after Thanksgiving, cared for by her family and those she loved.
She was born in Burlington, Vermont on March 9, 1967, the daughter of Marshall True and Judith Yarnall. During most of her childhood, she lived in Charlotte, Vermont, by Lake Champlain.
Kate found her path in life early on. As a two-year old, she began making small sculptures out of foraged household materials and though in the end breast cancer took away, much too early, her stamina to stand by the easel, we are gifted with the many decades in between, where her painting and printmaking flourished.
In 1989, Kate received a B.A. with high honors in Studio Art from Wesleyan University, where she made dear and lifelong friends. Though she received an M.F.A. in film making from NYU, her focus gradually shifted towards working with oils. “Nothing beats paint for stopping time cold,” is an Olivia Laing quote she used in the artist statement on her website (katetrue.com). Most of Kate’s work was figurative, often in portraits that hint as well as reveal. “I’m interested in the way our bodies, gestures, and expressions can telegraph meaning so eloquently,” she wrote. Her own children were muses and models for some of her most striking large paintings, and she made beautifully detailed portraits of families, especially children, which have found beloved homes, throughout the US and the world.
Kate was passionate about social justice, celebrating the resilience of women and people of color. Commissioned portraits and walnut ink sketches of children were a large part of her practice, but she also co-produced a series of print portraits of leaders and luminaries of Black History, begun before the Black Lives Matter movement. She co-curated “Nasty Women Boston” in 2017 and her own work also appeared in “Nasty Women NYC”, both of which were an emphatic speak out and continuation of the massive women’s marches of 2017.
She worked as she lived, with a career enriched by many collaborations and co-curations, especially with her friends, her light and joy for art shared among many. She was generous, an arts entrepreneur who promoted others’ work besides her own in shows she curated; who received grants, including for public art from the city of Boston and the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC); who presented popular workshops packed with children at the ICA. Kate’s final solo-show “Stay True”, curated by a dear friend, revealed an expansive artist working at the height of her powers and in multiple mediums: clay, oils, watercolor. This milestone was joyfully celebrated by Kate, her community, and those that love her.
Kate loved the music of Laurie Anderson and Kate Bush. She loved her beautiful tawny cat, Gigi. She loved conjuring glamor from thrift shops. She loved the words of Virginia Woolf, which she put on a small chalkboard in her kitchen, where she hosted many friends and family for delicious meals and gatherings over the years: “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” She had a gift for friendship and cherished her friends—from Wesleyan, New York, Chicago and Boston, from her book group of twenty-plus years, from her art critique group. Above all, Kate cherished her children.
Kate was herself. She possessed the courage to discern what she truly wanted and to go after it. And she possessed the kindness to respect and nourish those whose paths intersected with hers. It has been a privilege to walk with her.
Kate is survived by her children Nico, Julian and Tess Lepeska-True; by her mother, Judith Yarnall, her sisters, Julia True and Anna Couperthwait, and by her brothers, Adam and Steven True. She is also survived by her stepmother, Charon True, stepfather, Jon Yarnall and her former husband, Peter Lepeska.
The family wishes to thank the Miriam Boyd Parlin Hospice Residence and Good Shepherd Home Hospice, organizations which eased Kate’s last months and made it possible for her to stay at home, as she wanted. As in life, her community journeyed with her warmly and with joy in her final years. We give thanks to that community, who reflected Kate’s generosity, grace, and optimism back to her, including a special thanks to those friends closely involved with Kate’s care.
A memorial celebration of Kate’s life is planned for late spring. In lieu of flowers, donations in Kate’s memory may be sent to Artists for Humanity.