Kathleen Ryan Cox
Experimental Artist

by Rachel Perry
photo by George Bredewater

To view paintings by Kathleen Ryan Cox is to see multiple techniques and subjects. Primarily a watercolorist, Mrs. Cox also paints portraits, still lifes and landscapes using oils and pastels. She’s proficient at all of them, and resists the notion of being tied to one subject and/or method of expressing herself. “When I see something I really like, that’s when I want to paint,” she explained. “I think that’s why I paint so many different things. Because I really don’t know what it will be that hits me.”

Her open-minded approach is reflected, or perhaps a result of, numerous workshops and classes from a long list of teachers in various locations. After completing her formal education at Stephens College (A.A. in Fine Arts) and the University of Missouri (B.S. in Elementary Education), she continued to take art classes at Baldwin Wallace (Ohio), Kent State University and the Cleveland Institute of Art. She’s painted with Peter Paul Dubanowitz (watercolorist); Fred Leach (American Watercolor Society Fellow) in Bay Village, Ohio; Henry Bell; Betty Lou Schlemm (American Watercolor Society Fellow) in Rockport, Maine; Ted Goerschner (oils) in California; and Mary Whyte in Myrtle Beach. “I get to take art classes if they’re near golf courses,” she laughs.

Encouraged by her family, Kathleen pursued her artistic talents from an early age. “Back when I was young, my father would get me painting supplies,” she said. “He was a surgeon in Columbus (Indiana). I just piddled around with a lot of different things.”

After meeting and marrying her husband David while attending college in Missouri, Kathleen moved with him to Cleveland, Ohio, where the couple brought up three children. David became the Assistant Superintendent for the Cleveland Public Schools.

“While I was raising the kids I took watercolor classes in the evenings,” Mrs. Cox recalled. “I’d set up on the kitchen table. Then I was trying to upgrade my teaching certificate and I started taking classes. I took a painting class and found out I like to oil paint….When the kids got old enough I went back to school and got a nursing degree because I couldn’t find an elementary school teaching job at that time. I worked three years in a hospital and three years as a school nurse.”

When David retired in 1992, the Cox’s decided to move back to Indiana. “We were going to get a house at Grandview (Columbus) and there was nothing for sale. So we came over here (Nashville) for lunch and we thought we’d just look around,” Kathleen said. They found an ideal place with a full basement for studio space just off Artist Drive and moved in a few months later.

Mrs. Cox uses the basement/studio as many as three hours each day. “That doesn’t mean I’m always painting,” she laughs. “I do my own framing so that’s part of the time.” She orders frames and cuts her own mats.

Kathleen Cox has been an active member of the Brown County Art Gallery for the past three years and has participated in several juried exhibitions and shows. Her work has been included in the Hoosier Salon (’97, ’98); Indiana Heritage Arts (’93,’95,’97, 2002 merit award); Watercolor Society of Indiana (’98, 2000, signature member 2002); Waterway Art Association Show 2001 (Sunset Beach, North Carolina) and several shows at the Gallery. “Four Broads from Brown County,” a four-woman show at the John Waldron Art Center in 2000, attracted a Bloomington audience to view work by Shelly Frederick, Amanda Kirby and Peggy Brown, as well as Kathleen Cox.

In addition to a wide range of art instructors, Mrs. Cox enjoys painting in diverse locations. Her paintings, which can be representational or semi-abstract, depict scenes from Maine, Massachusetts, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, and of course Brown County, Indiana.

Kathleen Cox meets regularly with a group called “The Experimental Artists of Brown County” at the Brown County Art Gallery, to keep her ideas fresh and innovative. Founded by Sue St. John before she relocated to South Carolina, the group is comprised of artists Sandy Taylor, Rose McKay, Linda Meyer Wright, Carolyn Richards and Linda Sullivan. Mrs. Cox commented, “They bring in ideas for different techniques and let their imaginations run wild!”

Although she takes her work seriously and has received significant recognition for it, Mrs. Cox does not market her paintings and shies away from a printed ‘artist statement.’ “I printed one up when I had a show with Sue St. John. She had an artist statement and I thought I should print something up too. But I don’t remember what it says,” she admitted. Perhaps because she continues to be experimental, a definitive statement would cramp her style.

To see work by Kathleen Ryan Cox, visit the Brown County Art Gallery on the corner of Artist Drive and Main Street in Nashville. 812-988-4609.