Coming from the South, I had this image in my mind of the Northwest– open minded and full of diversity. And it is like that, in major cities like Seattle and Portland. But in the small towns we’ve lived in and especially for the last 10 months spent in Coeur d’Alene, ID, we’ve found diversity pretty hard to come by. We get used to all of the faces looking like ours. The work of New York artist Margaret Bowland explores what it means to be beautiful outside the expected standard– tall, thin, white.
Bowland contends, via her artist statement, that “being beautiful is as as important as being rich, that being beautiful is itself a form of wealth.” Women have, for centuries, tirelessly sought to conform to the celebrated standard of beauty at the time. Bowland’s images of young black girls with sad, painted faces convey what it must be like to be asked by society to put a mask over your own unique beauty in order to be accepted.
We feel compelled either by our environment or by ourselves ( or more likely a combination of the two ), to comply to what we are told is beautiful. Stay hungry all the time to be thin, dye your hair, whiten your teeth, don’t be too pale.. don’t be too dark. When will we, as individuals and as societies realize that to homogenize beauty only serves to promote what is ugly within ourselves.
To see more of Margaret Bowland’s work, please visit her website.