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Ryemarkable Kirsten Bowen (McGillicuddy)

Family info: Married John W McGilliuddy of Harrison/Rye last year on a party boat in New York Harbor with a small crew of friends and family!

My son Phil is 33 and in Columbus Ohio raising my 3 year old granddaughter Everleigh, and my son Andrew is recently engaged to a fellow art school grad and living in Savannah.

Pets: Benny, our 5 year old dog my son originally rescued. My husband thinks he's a blue tick hound mix. I trained him to say “I love you.” even though he doesn't always mean it. the dog, not my husband.

Name and description of your Organization/Business: Kirsten Bowen fine art

I’m a painter who makes work for gallery and museum shows and markets them on social media as well.

I do commissions that are consistent with the scope of my work.

How would you describe your work?

My work is text based art, incorporating poetry, lyrics and quotes into the texture and color of my paintings.

For the mural at Rye Beach, I chose to do a gradation of color that reflected the horizon around me. In much of my other work, imagery is present and typically includes landscapes.

I've recently noticed your art in our beautiful Rye Poetry Path at Rye Town Park! Would you share about this experience?

The Rye Poetry Path was a project created by Amy Vijayanagar and curated by Iain Hayley Pollock. Amy asked me to submit a proposal, and the Rye Arts Center sponsored it with funds from Arts Westchester. Harrison Paint & Supply was generous with some additional paints when I bought my supplies and I am very thankful for that. I currently have a wonderful intern/assistant working with me. Tristan Goeller is a student at SCAD and a Greenwich resident. Some of my favorite creative moms are women I met while participating in the Rye Square House Museum artisan market. Fani Szterenbuch and I have been working on a collaboration for floral arrangements and a printed card for a special holiday. We have a mutual admiration for each other's work and have done a little bit of trading. She did the flowers for my wedding and took it to the next level.

Before becoming an artist, did you have another career?

nope. I knew this would be my path from the age of six. Other than summer jobs before graduation, I've been fortunate to work exclusively as an artist.

Can you tell us how you got started as an artist? Who was your inspiration?

I had jobs in the city as a carpet designer, then as a textile designer. I branched off on my own to do children's textile design and work from home, because I was a new mom inspired by boyswear, and saw a lack of good prints in the industry. Eventually I found someone to rep me again so I could move back to Ohio and be close to my sisters.

I worked as a faux painter/mural artist through my 30’s while raising my 2 sons. It was exhilarating at first, but the demand grew intense, and I was feeling overworked and craved working at home again. I opened a gallery in Bexley Ohio from 2004-2007 featuring my paintings and work by other artists. My father worked as the director for me because for a time I was tending to both businesses. Though it wasn't as profitable as I had hoped, the gallery received incredible press and the friendships I built have lasted for almost 20 years now.

After closing the gallery I soon developed the technique that became my signature work. I finally had a following for my art again and have achieved a success and reach I couldn't have imagined before.

I had an uncle who was an incredible artist and a cousin who made art quilts in NYC. When my youngest was taking Saturday youth classes at my Alma Mater (Columbus College of Art and Design) I really got the itch to do fine art again.

What type of art do you create, and what mediums do you prefer to work with?

This might be a good time to mention my more recent water paintings. My husband and I have spent many of our summer weekends on the Sound in his downeaster, and my workaholic side kicked in. I began to experiment with acrylic paint and small wood panels while traveling on the boat. I wanted to capture water in a more realistic way than my text based technique allows, and soon I was painting in 2 different styles.

How do you balance your artistic pursuits with your responsibilities as a mom?

I lucked out with sons who didn't give me much trouble~ but I can't say i ever achieved balance. By the time I had the work at home thing figured out again, they were about to leave the nest. I think they appreciate my work ethic and I wish I could have given them more undivided attention at times.

Can you share insight into your creative process?

I'm inspired by everything, which means I am constantly making choices to try to stay in a consistent direction! I often find myself traveling through a landscape I want to capture and may take 100 photos in just a short span on the water or as a passenger on a road trip.

I do like to envision art in a space and am influenced by the environment it will live in. As far as messages, the poems I write for my paintings convey hope after struggle. I think it's important to acknowledge hard times and keep moving forward.

What are some challenges you've faced, and how have you overcome them?

Staying organized and focused is a biggie! I think my sons had to get their own act together because I didn't micro manage them. I'm proud that they have grown to be capable, responsible men. They almost never told me at the last minute that I had to bake cupcakes for the next day!

Learning to balance important vs urgent things and explaining that to young kids helped them feel important when something critical came up.

This past year my husband, friends, family, and my new in-laws all stepped up to help when my 28 year-old son was hospitalized for a brain infection. I immediately flew to Indianapolis, where he had been life flighted. Along with his girlfriend Caroline, I was at his side during the torture of his illness and recovery. I don't think the hospital had ever seen a case so severe, and I was told to prepare myself.

As with many patients, we had to convince Andrew not to fight with the restraints and ventilator, and that the hospital was the only thing keeping him alive. Behind the scenes, family was caring for my dog, friends were transporting my art, and loved ones contributed to a go fund me that blew us away. It was more than just thoughts and prayers. The emotional support system got me through, and miraculously after months in the hospital and continued PT, my son has made nearly a full recovery, is engaged, and very happy with his dream position in a city he loves. I couldn't have imagined a better outcome.🙏

Is your family involved your family in your artistic process? How do they contribute?

Yes! they are constantly called upon to critique my work in progress! My younger son Andrew especially. I am pleased that they are asking for gifts of art lately! They have certainly earned it from helping me transport and set up shows, and listening to my endless prattling about my art career.

What role does art play in your life as a mom?

My oldest son Phil didn't choose an art career but is adept at remodeling his home and takes wonderful photos. My son Andrew went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and now runs the baking department with his fiancée Caroline at Origin Coffee Bar in Savannah.

My granddaughter is obsessed with painting the rocks with “Gaga” after Facetiming with me while I sealed the mural at Rye Beach for the Rye Poetry Path.

What are some of the highlights or achievements you've had in your artistic career so far?

I have had a couple solo museum exhibitions, including the Evansville Museum of Arts History and Science in Indiana and the Coral Springs Museum of art in Florida. More recently I'm proud to be one of the artists in the C Parker gallery in Greenwich Connecticut.

How do you stay motivated and inspired during times when creativity feels elusive?

Thankfully, I never get creative block. A busy schedule can inhibit a creative flow though, and I go through periods when I feel the need to push out the distractions so I can work to complete a painting.

Are there any specific resources that have helped you develop your artistic skills?

I can't imagine being where I am without the full art school experience.

Additionally, most artists today, including myself, love to check out other artists' work on Instagram.

Can you share a memorable story or experience related to your art that you'd like to pass on to other moms?

I once had the dreadful experience of having to knock on someone's door to tell them the terrible news that I had just hit their cat in the road. The cat survived, and the woman assured me that it was just a “barn cat” and then she recognized me from recent publicity in the newspaper. It was awful. Initially to be recognized at a horrible time, and then to realize there was a hierarchy of cats.

How do you manage your time effectively to juggle your artistic pursuits, parenting duties, and other responsibilities?


Have you faced any criticism or skepticism from others regarding your decision to pursue art while being a mom? How do you deal with negativity?

No. I suppose I am a little older and closer to generations where women had traditional roles. Today we hear so much about the injustices women face, but we also have to acknowledge that we typically are under less pressure to be breadwinners. If I face a challenge today, it is to impress upon new friends and family that though my work comes from my heart , it is not a hobby.

How do you handle self-doubt or creative blocks that may arise in your artistic journey?

I feel confident in my work. I'm especially confident that my paintings that include my own poetry are the most valued by art world people. I think the self doubt or blocks have more to do with finding reps, art, dealers, or galleries who appreciate my work for the right reasons. I have had some great experiences that have spoiled me and make me yearn for more. We are in an age where the stability of the middleman is uncertain. The drawback to promoting and selling one's own work is there is an expert curatorial level missing, and the art that gets the most visibility is not always the art that would be appreciated by critics higher up the line.

Where do you see yourself and your art in the future?

I dream of showing my art and being represented by a Chelsea gallery and being a true asset to them. I hope for more museum exhibitions and continued success with the galleries that currently show my work. I've been in search of a compatible studio mate because I have a fabulous studio in Port Chester with enough room to share.

What advice would you give to another mom who wants to pursue her passion for art but feels hesitant or overwhelmed?

  1. Set little goals.

  2. Make a list and try to chip away at it.

  3. Don't beat yourself up.

  4. Remember creative energy is a gift. It's a gift to yourself and it's a gift to others. Let yourself enjoy it.

  5. It's ok to be stingy about giving your art away. If you don't value it, no one will.

  6. Please drink responsibly.

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