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Hanging on the Walls: The Legacy of Timothy Joseph Bowen

Several of the paintings hanging around Brooklyn Boulders Somerville are done by artist Timothy Joseph Bowen, late uncle to Shea Whitehead, our Youth Programs Manager.

Shea with several of her uncle's paintings, found in the Castle Room at BKB.
Shea with several of her uncle's paintings, found in the Castle Room at BKB.

One of the most beautiful things about art is that it often outlives us – it embodies the spirit and emotions of the artist behind the creation.

A Philadelphia School of Art graduate, Timothy Joseph Bowen was an artist and lived a life fitting within the romantic stereotype: battling alcohol addiction and the intense emotional pangs of creativity. He was also in The Boneheads, a punk band often credited with bringing punk to Philly in the 70s and 80s.



Bowen died abruptly in 2012, leaving Shea and her sister with his entire life’s work. On top of multiple physical pieces, he also left a large amount of writing on flash-drive, with journal entries dating back to 2009. In total, the collection encompasses over four hundred pieces of art, some of which Shea has used to decorate the non-climbing walls at BKB Somerville.

Shea self-published the three-hundred pages of journal entries as a Christmas gift to her sister. Says Shea, “the entries are totally immersive. He records his day-to-day activity, interactions with friends, trying to make and sell work, the things he would buy (food, beer, wine), trying to get carpentry work, which books he was reading (he was a voracious reader), and the physical and mental pain he felt. ‘Suicide is on the forefront of my mind,’ he wrote. And eventually, that’s what happened.”

For Shea, coming to terms with his abrupt death is still a process, especially when dealing with the physical manifestations of her uncle and his work. But Shea finds that sharing his art has also been healing.

“In one particular entry, my uncle writes about how he hoped that people would one day see his work. It’s been super gratifying to make that happen at BKB.”

Bowen’s inspiration to create art has come to transcend him. BKB member Marshall bought the painting Faces for his younger brother, an art history major at Williams College.


“For his birthday I thought I would kickstart his art collection with two pieces that made me smile every time I climbed the staircase in Brooklyn Boulders. We love them!”


Shea’s favorite painting of her uncle’s is The Lovers, which is displayed in the stairwell near the Active Collaborative Workspace. “It moves me. It feels like when you meet someone and things line up, instead of getting messed up. Which rarely happens. It’s that victory over cynicism.”


The Lovers
The Lovers


Bowen’s art hanging in such a vibrant community is a victory over cynicism in a way. It’s about art triumphing over the most unfortunate circumstances and going on to inspire others to think and feel something out of the ordinary. Art is beautiful in itself, but its true beauty lies in sharing it with those around you.


If you’re interested in purchasing a piece by Timothy Bowen or showcasing your work, email