Kathleen Boudwin, a self-described “grunge queerdo,” is an artist who values mindfulness, sexuality, playfulness, and freedom. She is also a major stoner. To stay present in the moment, she uses cannabis to medicate for anxiety and emotional pain. She takes pleasure in it too, and her work reflects it. Creativity swells in sensual and hyper-colored pigment. Figurative work is Boudwin’s domain, both as a painter and as an illustrator.
While much of her content is considered NSFW, she has been able to accomplish what many artists-on-the-edge have struggled with: Boudwin expertly straddles the thin line in-between high-profile corporate beauty and fashion gigs and edgy transcendental feminist artmaking that centers on sexuality. For example, she managed social media posts for giants like Kat Von D, Marc Jacobs, and Dior, and she also worked at makeup-monolith Sephora’s headquarters as the in-house illustrator. Her personal work, her paintings, are bold, brazen, and highly provocative—an artist to watch.
I met her at a group art show at The Champagne Gallery in Portland in November of 2016 where her self-portraits were displayed, and I have been following her ever since. In the gallery’s light, I was awestruck by her persona and charm. Her style reminds me of Lisa-Yuskavage-meets-Roy-Lichtenstein, gone vagina dentata.
It’s fascinating to see a femme who is so successfully maneuvering through both corporate America and queer culture. Boudwin is empowered by her sexuality and her art, and she refuses to bow-down to societal pressures in these trying times, where FOSTA-SESTA controls individual rights, threatening all that is sacred and divine and true. In-person, Boudwin is warm and charismatic, yet daring and colorful. She is the modern woman, the type you’ll wanna roll a blunt with.
Where are you from?
I’m a former-sheltered Christian girl from the suburbs of Washington, [who spent time] riding horses and dancing ballet. [In] my earlier years, I lived in Seattle a block down from where Kurt Cobain lived the last years of his life.
How did this work find you?
I’ve always been a creative… After art school and some deep traveling around the South Pacific, I picked up painting again. The Portland art community has let me thrive ever since.
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I have always been encouraged to be an artist. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be, besides [being able to create] the dog hotel I dreamed of building as a child. My oldest gig is my family Christmas card. I started out by tracing my toddler hand and spelling my name wrong, to designing the entire thing, year after year.
What are your favorite things to do while stoned?
I love to dance, talk, go on dates, paint, and stretch. I’ve had some of my best yoga sessions stoned, some of my best dates after dabs, and the best sex after sharing a blunt.
How is weed part of your daily life as an artist?
I am a daily stoner, therefore I’m always creating when I’m high. Some designs I prepare sober, and then I dive into detail after a joint. I usually start my day with a dab and treat myself to a blunt here and there.
What are the best strains to inspire creativity and artmaking?
Cinex for creativity and focus and Sherbet for euphoria.
Where does your art come from?
This strange weird higher self that lives in my gut and the back of my mind. She’s fucked up and scares even me some of the time, but she always keeps me laughing. I pull a lot from my own sexual identity and the experiences I have.
How do you come up with concepts for your art?
I am an improvised designer and painter. I chose a subject matter and I let it evolve in front of my eyes. Some details and directions I chose shock even myself.
If your art has a message, what is it?
Self-love, sexual freedom, and the celebration of freaks, queers, femmes, and all bodies. I like to focus on femme energy and experiences, because this is my own gaze, but I attempt to explore creating anonymity in ethnicity, race, and gender. This explains my obsession with aliens and androgynous bodies. I want my art to… be more intersectional and fluid.
You illustrate and paint. What is more personally satisfying to you and why?
Painting gives a whole new value to art for me. My paintings are mounted on the walls [for] my clients, ready to be presented and glorified for all their guests to see. It gives them this sort of pedestal. I came from a social media design job where my art lasted only a day to get thousands of likes and [then it would] disappear into the internet void.
What’s next for you?
Bigger things. I want to paint murals, I want to build installations, and I want to start a brand. Everything is going to get big.
Julia Laxer lives for the stories and writes in the afternoons from a messy desk in a rose-lit room in Portland, Oregon. She is obsessed with rose and oud perfumes, Lana Del Rey, and wants to eat all the peaches. She uses performance art and spiritual practice to explore archetype and ritual, and writes poems, essays, erotica, and memoir.