Main Line Textile Designer Enjoying Second Act in the Fine Arts

By Priscilla Bohlen
Vintage Polly Van Pelt, the artist’s mother. Photo with acrylic abstract background.

Priscilla Bohlen on her second go-round in art: ‘It’s a great life!’

It was author F. Scott Fitzgerald who said famously, “There are no second acts in American lives.” The line shows up in his unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, which ended up being published posthumously in 1941. Fitzgerald might agree that he had been proven wrong.

Count Priscilla Bohlen as one who’s at odds with Fitzgerald’s assertion. She’s living proof that there are indeed second acts.

Moore College of Art and Design

When it came time for college, Priscilla knew she had art in her blood: her mother was a visual artist and a grandmother knitted sweaters for her Main Line shop. By heeding paternal advice (you have to make a living!), Bohlen chose Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia (disclosure: my father taught painting at Moore for three decades) with a major in textile design. You don’t hear a lot about “starving artists” in textile design.

She earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts at Moore and moved to New York City to design patterns for domestics (Priscilla got free sheets and towels for the duration). Here is an example of Bohlen’s textile work, chosen because the design reappears in one of her recent fine art pieces:

Priscilla Bohlen textile example.
Photo by Andrew Goutman

Now here is the same design but layered with an acrylic background:

"Sweeter Than Sugar" by Priscilla Bohlen.
“Sweeter Than Sugar” by Priscilla Bohlen, May 20, 2021.
Priscilla Bohlen Comes Home

So why would someone achieving a successful career in the arts in New York City (“if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”) come back to the old neighborhood?

“It was right after 9/11,” Bohlen remembers, ” and I was regularly visiting my father, who was ill. It just kind of made sense to be close to family. I was never a New York kind of girl…too much concrete. I had a chance to come back to my roots and I took it. I’ve never looked back.”

“Day by Day” Bohlen: “I enjoy mixing colors, working with colors and putting together a composition.”
Continuing Education

Back on the Main Line, Bohlen decided to flex her creative muscles by concentrating on painting: working on canvass using acrylic paint or watercolors. Though she had painted her entire life, Bohlen was leaping into an entirely new technique, one that did not come with a road map. No more of the workaday routine of New York. Priscilla would find her own way.

So she took classes at the Wayne Art Center and the Main Line Art Center. She became a juried member of the Delaware Valley Art League (DVAL), ARTsisters, Philadelphia Tri-State Artists Equity and Mixed Media Ten, volunteering and making lots of friends.

"Take Me to the Water"
“Take Me to the Water” The titles of her painting are taken from song titles.
On Painting

Painting is a way to share my love of the interplay of color, shapes and paint. It is also an adventure that I like to ‘change up,’ working full reign with my tools. I search for mood and drama to create a positive response.

Shapes combined with color continually intrigue me, forever changing in the light.

The painting dictates what it needs and the painting tells me when it is finished.

Priscilla Bohlen

Priscilla’s presence at juried and solo shows heated up around 2015, with pieces in galleries stretching from the Berwyn Art and Photo Gallery, the Cheltenham Art Center, Penn Med Valley Forge, the Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr, the Cosmopolitan Club in Philadelphia all the way to the Villa Nobile in Tuscany, Italy.

She’s very proud of the first prize she received for a watercolor hung at a juried show for the DVAL in May 2015.

Today, Priscilla Bohlen lives in Narberth, PA, surrounded by her paintings and her cats.

"Embraceable You"
“Embraceable You” Bohlen slapped on layers upon layers of white paint.
On Technique

I like to apply a resist to an active, colorful background; cover it with a complementary layer of paint, then remove the resist, exposing part of the activity underneath. From there, I have a challenge to make it all work as a composition. It requires many layers of resist and happy accidents, until I am satisfied. I love the richness and the surprises that the undertones lend to the final piece.

Priscilla Bohlen
Priscilla Bohlen in her Narberth, PA home.
The artist in her Narberth home. Photo by Andrew Goutman.

183 works of art by Priscilla Bohlen are displayed on her website, which can be found here.

Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of The Record.

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