A painting of a face.
social change artist

About Kathleen Cosgrove

Growing up in Berkeley in the 1960’s set the trajectory for Kathleen Cosgrove as an arts advocate and social change artist. 

After raising her family and selling her lobbying firm she returned to school.  She graduated from Pacific Northwest College of Art with a BFA at the age of 51 Ms. Cosgrove’s art has consistently dealt with the passage of time, destruction, and renewal. Her current project, Feeling Our Age, addresses outdated stereotypes and attitudes towards older women.  Kathleen is painting 60 strong, racially diverse women, over the age of 60 and engaging them in a conversation about how it feels to be their age.  She has participants from several countries. 

Kathleen maintains a full-time studio practice in Vancouver, Washington and has a second studio in Manzanita, Oregon.  She is represented by Coast Galley in Manzanita and can be seen in solo, and group shows throughout the United States.

The Process

It took me a while to define the project. I wrote and rewrote the concept paper, each time getting more feedback and refining the scope. Participants wanted to be anonymous. I told everyone that their portrait may or may not look like them since I had never painted portraits. I am an abstract artist. I studied portrait artists I admired: Alex Katz, Alice Neel, and many others. I practiced. I tried different materials and substrates before I settled on Sennelier Acrylics and pastels on Rives BFK paper. I wanted a smooth flat look that appeared somewhat childlike and unpretentious. They were going to be their authentic selves.

Recruitment was pretty easy because everyone wanted to call attention to age discrimination. I contacted friends and colleagues, who contacted their friends, and so on. Soon I had women from all over the United States and a few other countries. The most difficult part was recruiting women of color. I don't know if it was because my circle of contacts lacked the ethnic diversity I would like, or if women of color are so busy combating racial and gender discrimination that they just haven't focused on the fact that they might also be discriminated because they are getting older.

How to present the work was another challenge. I wanted it to be unconventional, but easy to install since the portraits and statements are intended to go on tour. I decided on hand-made natural frames and vibrant matts in the autumn colors- something that would stand out and say "We are here, look at us."