Artist Kiah Ann Bellows has a favorite first-moment- in-Greenville memory: “My family was moving here; I was six,” she recalls. “And before going anywhere else, my parents stopped at the museum. Of all places, the museum!”
This pit stop, perhaps, sealed Bellows’s fate, if it wasn’t already: her father is an architect, her mother, an interior designer. Growing up with parents who constantly worried over quality, who delighted in details, nurtured in Bellows a passion for color and composition. “You’re really such a product of your environment,” she quips. “It’s a blessing and a curse to always be occupied with the details.”
Bellows’s abstract landscapes scream of bright colors: fiery reds and magentas, cool blues and greens, teals and turquoise, and recently, a lot of yellows. “My color palettes are a reflection of my personality,” she says. “Life experiences are what I draw inspiration from.”
An image of a pool ripped from a magazine inspired one recent work, although that may not be obvious from the final composition. Typical of her process, Bellows sketches an initial design and studies it, trying to figure out what excites her.
“Perhaps, in this case, it was my innate tie to the water. Or it could be a sensory response, something subconscious,” she says. Bellows then flips her sketch upside down, plays with shapes, until a final composition reveals itself. She then translates her ideas to a large canvas, upon which she layers color—shape by shape, stroke by stroke—until the composition is balanced and connotes the feeling she intended.
“A lot of artists work for political reasons or to make a statement. That’s not me,” she says. “It’s all about giving back. I want to bring joy and life to people’s homes . . . and in a way that they can afford. After someone’s hard day, I want my art on their wall to radiate positive energy.”
Bellows took some art classes growing up, but she primarily invested her time and energy swimming. She attended Gardner Webb University, swimming competitively during her tenure there, while dabbling in and eventually declaring her major in fine art. After college, she moved back home to Greenville and began building her portfolio.
“Swimming taught me a lot,” she says. “It taught me perseverance and hard work. Being a full-time artist is labor intensive, and I’m thankful that all my years swimming competitively prepared me for that. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.”