“Ken Bortman Here!” is a phrase many of us at Project Onward are familiar with, as it is the endearing and distinctive way Ken announces himself over the phone and whenever necessary. If you talk to him long enough, you will almost certainly get to hear an original joke with a thoughtfully relevant and playful pun or punchline. The nature of Ken’s humour mirrors his approach to life and his artistic practice: an exploratory, thoughtful, and playful processing of the world around him. 


Ken’s creative process is lengthy but light hearted. He spends much time staring at and contemplating his works in progress with a hot cup of coffee in hand, carefully considering his next move. Most of his recent works seem to be motivated by his musings and observations. He starts with simple, playful line drawings and develops the ideas that emerge into greater concepts and compositions, often making ample use of the photocopier. His sculptural works are a clear exploration of materials and tangibility. 


Bortman received his BFA with a focus on painting and printmaking from The School of the Art Institute in 1979, and later moved to New York City to be a part of the Greenwich Village art scene. It was there that he began collecting scrap wood and other found materials for art making. 


In this celebratory retrospective of Ken’s work, we showcase a cohesive selection of his mixed media paintings and sculptures. His distinctive color palette, his keen eye for composition, playful ideas, and decades of expertise come through in every piece.

All art is available for purchase! Shop below:

"Two Shoes"
"Untitled (entity)"
"Taking a Walk on Valentine's Day"
"Circle of Sound"
"Complex Commerce"
"Untitled Landscape"
"Margin of Error"
"You Are Beautiful"
"Far Easting"
"Untitled (Ideas)"
"Hooded Shroud"
"Don't Look Too Close"
"Personal Best"
"Mast Man On"
"Untitled (Red Outline)"
"Green Exposer"
"Blast From the Past"
"Untitled (Yellow)"
"Untitled (White)"
"Studio Where the New Movement Starts"
"Swanteen of 1983"
"Natural Disaster"
"Out the Plane Window"
"Castle Holder"
"Cattle Cult"
"Untitled (Carton Girls)"
"Read Menu"
"Untitled Greenscape"
"Loose Electron in the Outer Shell"
"Space Mirror"
"Untitled (Light Sculpture)"
"Untitled (Pipes)"
"Untitled (Red)"
"Untitled (Assemblage)
"Light Beams"
"Instant Photo"

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Project Onward believes we can inspire change by using art to promote empathy and reduce the stigma of mental illness and developmental disabilities. We seek to improve the self-image of artists by emphasizing the social and economic value of their work.


You can directly contribute to this belief and help improve the lives of each Project Onward artist by purchasing their work. Our online shop is open 24/7, and half of the sale for each original piece goes directly to the artist.