Kathy Hirshon: Biography

Kathy (Ryan) Hirshon’s artistic talents were discovered at the tender age of four. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, she worked—or rather, played—at art, and her efforts gained her an art scholarship to the exclusive St. Louis girl’s college, Fontbonne.  From there she went to the University of Missouri for MA studies. But the siren song of New York City drew her from the Midwest, as it has so many young artists, and off to the big city she went. There she studied at the Art Students League, but also found a new calling in the compelling business of big journalism.

Although never abandoning art completely, Kathy spent many very successful and productive years in New York as an executive for major publishing houses, including Ladies Home Journal, Life Magazine and the Hearst Corporation.  When she retired from this career in 1992, she was Vice-President and Director of Marketing for Walking Magazine.

Leaving the city for the quiet Connecticut countryside, Kathy was again able to focus on her first and primary love—art.  And those endeavors have continued ever since.   She has had many notable private commissions, including residential and public place murals. Group exhibitions and fundraisers in CT, from the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich to the large outdoor art exhibits in Stamford became a regular part of her life. Kathy also turned to teaching art, ranging from kindergarten to middle school,  developing art curricula for multiple age ranges. She says that she found that teaching art taught her more about art than any of her formal classes, because it forced her to clarify her own beliefs. 

Throughout her career as a fine artist, Kathy has explored widely: in crayon, pencils, conte crayon and charcoal, pastel, pen and inks, watercolor, acrylic and oil paint, assemblages/collage with materials as varied as paper, felt, natural and found objects, recycled papers and canvas. She has modeled clay and fired ceramics.  One of the major conclusions she has reached is that she often finds her source of inspiration in the actual process—in the doing of art, and more specifically, in the tools themselves, and how they feel and move in her hands. For Kathy, her tools open doors to experiments and hence, to expression.  

2009 was a watershed year in Kathy’s career. Invited by the Bartlett Arboretum to create works for a solo show, she serendipitously picked up a woodburning tool and combined the marks she burned into wood panels with paints and stains into a series of pieces she titled “Spirited Trees”. The series garnered both critical and public acclaim, an extension of the exhibition, print publications of the works and a book containing them. The experience has been life-changing for her as an artist.

Kathy Hirshon has continued to explore this unique medium, developing new imagery and finishes.  She foresees many, many years ahead in which she will continue to experiment and challenge herself, growing not only technically, but in the depth of meaning she is able to convey through what she calls her “Charred Narratives”.  In 2013 she was offered representation by Gaugy Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where her work is successfully sold today. This remarkable artist has now moved her studio from CT to Santa Fe, and says she is truly “home”.