Fall From Grace

Margaret Bowland’s psychologically provocative paintings explore a complex set of distinctly contemporary social issues. Her subjects engage in a personal interaction with the viewer, either staring directly back at us from the canvas, or allowing us into a private moment. Bowland coats her subjects’ skin with white or blue makeup- referencing practices, from Japanese geishas to minstrel blackface, that have centuries of social implications.

Beauty makes sense to me, has weight for me, only when it falls from grace. It starts to matter when it carries damagae,” Margaret Bowland states in a recent review in High Fructose Magazine by Jane Kenoyer. 

Bowland challenges the role of beauty, gender, and race in contemporary society and its impact on individuals. Her position asserts that is the duty of an artist to question what is deemed beautiful and to depict subjects that challenge those sstandards, which are harmful to us all in their misconception. Bowland explores beauty through several lenses, one being that of innocence, and the other as the face of corruption. Her portraits of young girls express a playful discomfort. The subjects gaze outwadly at the viewer as if looking in a mirror, a technique which recalls hundreds of years of art history. She directly references Edouard Manet’s Olympia, from 1865, in her work Olympia #6 from 2007. Bowland reverses the races of the two female subjects, also painting one with dwarfed features. She depicts a black dog instead of a cat and sets the flowers down next to the bed. Both subjects address the viewer as though they’re being disrupted in the act of painting and being painted. The viewer becomes both the intruder and the observer. Her reactions to Manet’s decisions suggest that beauty carries weight for the beholder.

J sequesters her black/white/face within an idyllic{self}–: constructed beauty chained to a twoness from which”two sight” can never be obtained, that she might be adorable but not quite sure, requited love not a prerequisite, but still, J’s back arch, her confused splayed hair, the slight head tilt, speaks –:

– Excerpt from Margaret Bowland, Disturbing the Piece, by Randall Horton

Bowland’s work has been shown nationwide and internationally in solo and group museum exhibitions and art fairs, including Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.; The Greenville County Museum, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, California and Art Fair 21, Cologne, Germany. Additionally, in 2009, she received major recognition as the People’s Choice Award Winner in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Born in Burlington, North Carolina, Bowland studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before moving to Brooklyn, NY, where she has lived and worked for over 20 years. She is an adjunct faculty member at the New York Academy of Art. Margaret Bowland has been exclusively represented by Driscoll Babcock Galleries since 2011.

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