With an art studio in her Rumson garage, a busy mother of five has found the ideal way to pursue her career while staying close to her family. The garage’s size is ideal to accommodate the large-scale works Kathleen Palmeri exhibits and sells to businesses and restaurants, including those presided over by New Jersey’s own award-winning celebrity chef David Burke

A student of the late internationally renowned Red Bank-based artist Evelyn Leavens, Palmeri began expressing herself artistically as a child, encouraged by her grandmother Eileen, “who saw every creation of mine as a masterpiece,” she said. That positive reinforcement gave the shy child the confidence to pursue an art education.

Palmeri, who grew up in Lincroft, studied fine art at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. After graduation she obtained her Master of Counselor Education from New York University, becoming a counselor to middle school students in William O’Shea School’s art and music program in New York. Upon moving to Rumson she studied at Colorest in Red Bank. When her now ten-year-old entered kindergarten, it was time to focus on her art, moving from brushes to palette knives and even her hands. She began getting commissions immediately.

In addition to coastal-themed canvases, her portraits of famous cultural icons and celebrities, including rock stars, the late Jackie Kennedy, the Statue of Liberty, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, became particularly popular. She has sold over 100 of her RBG portraits, one of which appeared in an Architectural Digest feature on a home in California. Profits from sales of 70 Bruce Springsteen portraits were donated to the Pandemic Relief Fund. Her works hang throughout the United States, in Italy, Costa Rica, and elsewhere.


“I’m one of three girls, and I have three girls, so I paint a lot of women I admire,” said Palmeri, whose children range in age from ten to 21. “I do a lot of family portraits. Big abstracts are my passion. I enjoy creating large-scale paintings with layers of pigment and texture.” Another current passion is her 3-D flowers made with special leather paint, acrylics, and oil sticks.

For years Palmeri and her husband Dennis dined at Rumson’s Fromagerie, where chef Burke once worked. Today the beloved restaurant, now Red Horse, is owned by Burke. The couple’s friendship with the chef resulted in Burke coming to Palmeri’s studio to select works he felt would be conversation starters in his restaurant, including one gracing his chef’s table “Burke’s Box.” Burke purchased another painting for his home, and bought one of the RBG portraits for his daughter, a law school graduate, Palmeri said.
Her mural depicting the diverse residents of Red Bank hangs at the offices of the developer Denholtz Properties in that borough. She had to board a motorized scaffold to complete it. Most recently, Burke commissioned Palmeri to create a three-part 3-D green themed mural for his latest venture, 1776 by David Burke, a restaurant featuring a Top Golf Swing Suite in Morristown.

On a smaller scale, her affordable “Bright Box” prints come boxed, perfect for gifts.

“It was through my artwork that I discovered a voice to communicate,” Palmeri said. “My creations are reflections of my innermost thoughts, feelings, and impulses. I find doing commissioned works very fulfilling. My counseling skills come into play while meeting with clients and designers when I uncover what types of art will infuse the unique passions and personalities of the homeowner into their space. Large artwork can transform a space and take a room to the next level.”
During December Palmeri’s works will be on exhibit at Goldie’s on North Broad Street in Ridgewood. They can also be found at Third and Lennox Flowers and Salt Design in Fair Haven, Schwartz Design Showroom in Metuchen, and locations in Connecticut (details are available on her website). She plans to attend Art Basel in Miami for the first time in late November, where she hopes to exhibit someday. She also aspires to teach art in the future.

“From the moment I smell the paint, I feel a sense of freedom and peace,” Palmeri reflected. “Art is truly a window into my heart.”

Kathleen Palmeri