Outsider Beauty: Margaret Bowland

20 Sep

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.

Flower Girl #2, oil on linen, 48×48

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.

Color, pastel and charcoal on paper, 37x 48

Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna, oil on linen, 72×80

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.

Flower Girl, oil on linen, 44×52

To see more of Margaret Bowland’s work, please visit her website.

Artist found via Artist A Day.  All images are via the artist’s website.

7 Responses to “Outsider Beauty: Margaret Bowland”

  1. Karen B. Jones September 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    These girls do not need to be white to be beautiful. Lovely paintings.

    • Lesley September 20, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

      I completely agree, Karen. The sadness of their expressions truly moves me.

  2. bradturnerart September 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    Reblogged this on BradTurnerArt.

  3. Pilar Nereida September 24, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Sadly, in my country this is also the present situation. Too many whitening products promoting altered beauty. I’m glad I ran into this post.😉

    • Lesley September 24, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      I’m glad you stopped by, Pilar. Isn’t is disheartening that the way we look naturally can’t always be celebrated by others as beautiful, when each person is created with a beauty all their own. Where are you from, if you don’t mind me asking?

      • Pilar Nereida September 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

        I’m from the sunny Philippines (although the weather’s been kinda weird nowadays). Everyone is beautiful as they are and they should instill it in their minds. Too many factors that corrupt our concept of beauty these days. I’m glad I love whatever skin I’m in, too much tan from going under the sun or pale(r) skin from not going out much, I embrace it all and so should other girls.😉

        • Lesley September 26, 2012 at 10:16 am #

          Well said, Pilar!

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