Cathy Josefowitz was born in 1956 in New York. Her mother, Tanya Kagan Josefowitz, was a painter and her father, David Josefowitz, was a conductor and producer of classical music records. Her parents left the United States for Switzerland when Cathy was two and a half years old. At four, she discovered drawing and, in her words, found her language.
Cathy left school at 13. She spent her adolescence in Geneva, where she discovered surrealism, Cocteau, Boris Vian, Jean-Louis Barrault as the mime Deburau, Marylin Monroe, and Nijinski, all of whom who become figures of influence for her. His sister also introduced her to the theatre, Ionesco and the poetry of the absurd.
At the age of 16 she entered the Théâtre National de Strasbourg to study theatre design. She settled there with Romain Denis, grandson of the painter Maurice Denis and an artist in his own right. Cathy abandoned her studies before the end of the first year and moved to Paris, where she entered the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts. She helped Romain Denis on the sets of Molière by Ariane Mnouchkine but preferred to spend time alone and paint. Her first works were large expressionist and figurative paintings on kraft paper. The world of the circus was omnipresent in her drawings, as were games, costumes, romantic intimacy with Romain Denis and their cat Shen Te (named in tribute to Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan).
In 1977, Cathy Josefowitz – weary of Parisian life and harbouring doubts about painting – decided to join her sister in Boston. She left Romain Denis.
In the United States she discovered dance and primal theatre, a technique focused on improvisation and the search for raw, primitive and unconscious emotions. In 1978, Cathy also began an apprenticeship with an obstetrician-gynaecologist to become a midwife, resulting in a series of drawings on the subject.
In 1979, at the age of 23, she went to England to study dance at the Dartington College of Arts in Devon. There she met two great masters of experimental contemporary dance: Steve Paxton, who co-founded the Judson Dance Theater with Trisha Brown in New York in the 1960s and who invented the dance practice of "contact improvisation"; and Mary Fulkerson, a founder of the “anatomical release technique”. Both would have great influence on her work. These years were a time of experimentation for Cathy Josefowitz – particularly through the consumption of hallucinogenic mushrooms – and these experiences nourished her investigations into the body and dance, which were always accompanied by drawings. This period was particularly notable for the many pastels she created in notebooks.
Cathy graduated with a degree in performing arts in 1983 with the choreographic composition Fiesta Graduata, which she created in collaboration with another student, Mara de Wit. They were given high praise by the judges and continued their work by creating the dance and theatre company Research and Navigation that same year in Wales. Dance, choreography, drawing and painting occupy equivalent places in Cathy's work. Close to the feminist milieu and highly involved in the gay and lesbian liberation movement, Cathy Josefowitz lived in a romantic relationship with a woman, Susan, from 1983 to 1987. She composed and sang militant songs with dancing friends under the group name Lining Time.
Cathy then studied choreography in Amsterdam at the SNND (School for New Dance Development) in 1987.
In 1988, during a brief stay in Switzerland (where she gave dance lessons to music teachers at the Geneva Conservatory), she met the Italian writer Beppe Sebaste, with whom she then left to live in Italy. There she worked on luminous figurative paintings and felt-tip pen drawings that related her everyday life while continuing to dance. In August 1988 she presented Woodstock in Vienna, the first choreographic piece she had created at the Dartington College of Arts, and then married Beppe Sebaste in Pietrasanta. She was close to the Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri, of whom she made several portraits. Cathy exhibited in Geneva and in several galleries in Italy, wrote new choreographic works (notably with the actor Virginio Gazzolo) and taught “new dance” in Parma and Milan. In 1990, when she learned of the accidental death of a student friend from the dance school in Amsterdam in a mountain-climbing accident, she wrote the choreographic piece Forever Young.
Her son, Pierre, was born in July 1991. Cathy and her husband decided to live between Pietrasanta, in Tuscany, and Paris. She devoted herself to painting and worked on several series of works on the themes of animals, transportation, and dance. It was also during this period that she began her first monochromes inspired by the nature and landscapes of California, especially Ojai, where she had stayed in 1990.
In 1995, Cathy divorced Beppe Sebaste and moved to Paris. She painted a series of paintings inspired by her choreographic piece Forever Young in which she explored movement, the body falling, and a chair, and then worked on a new series about the human skeleton, which she linked to dance.
In 1997, she met the painter Colin Paul Mey and began to live with him. Ever more tied to the body and gestures, her painting practice developed into creating very large formats on the ground. From 1998 to 2000, she made a series of abstract and geometric works inspired by the colour and light of her travels in Egypt entitled Prayers. In 2003, the director François Lévy-Kuentz filmed a documentary about Cathy Josefowitz in which she discussed her collage work.
In 2004, Cathy and her son moved to Geneva and she continued to paint in a workshop in Carouge. She created black and white monochromes, smaller format works that mixed abstraction and the figurative as well as techniques including painting and collages of various subjects in an investigation that revisited themes from her past paintings. In 2008 she created a series of canvases with four hands painted over the course of a few months with Colin Paul Mey. This pictorial and amorous game mixed their two practices with representations of décor and stage sets. Then she returned to large format works in a series of paintings on the theme of the Kama Sutra. Gradually, figures would disappear to make room for almost monochromatic variations in large formats.
In 2011, Cathy and Mara de Wit relaunched Research and Navigation, the company they founded in 1983. They explored the relationship between dance and painting. Their year of work together resulted in the movie Fiesta Graduata Revisited.
Over the course of a few months at the end of 2012 and in 2013, Cathy painted many paintings on the theme of Skies, in shades of grey and pink, whose scenographic composition (as paintings in movement) she worked on with Lorenzo Piqueras.
Cathy Josefowitz died on June 28, 2014 in Geneva.