White Roses Dripping Red

The Oil Paintings of Margaret Bowland

I was first introduced to the paintings of Margaret Bowland in 2009, when one of her portrait paintings won the People's Choice Award in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, DC. I was uncomfortable and inspired all at once, and have followed her work ever since.

Painting the Roses Red by Margaret Bowland, 2012, oil on linen, 55 ½ x 51.
Painting the Roses Red by Margaret Bowland, 2012, oil on linen, 55 ½ x 51.

On one hand, Bowland's work is controversial. She took as her artistic muse a young African American girl and has painted her numerous times, often with white paint on her face and in situations that provoke questions about race, beauty, sexuality, gender roles, and power. The reactions to the work are positive for the most part, but critics do question the artist's intent and whether her work is somewhat opportunistic.

On the other hand, Bowland's imagery is incredibly stunning and unique. Her latest works play on the idea of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland among others, with white roses splattered red, and young African American girls adorned with tar, cotton, and diamonds. The end results are disturbing but incredibly compelling. Her chosen visual tropes are unlike any I've seen before. It's exciting to know that there are places painting can go that are still undiscovered country. That ideas and presentations are not all just rehashed references to paintings of the past.     

White Fives by Margaret Bowland, 2012, oil on linen, 84 x 70.
White Fives by Margaret Bowland, 2012, oil on linen, 84 x 70.

Overall I think Bowland would be an excellent artist to learn painting from. She has such a strong sense of composition and has really plumbed the depths to discover a visual language that is hers alone. That, above all, is what draws me to her work and keeps me coming back.

For more painting lessons and resources about the painting techniques of your choice, look at all the offerings on sale at the North Light Shop. Beginners painting for the first time and advanced artists fine-tuning their efforts will all find the unique resource they need to advance their artistry. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

One thought on “White Roses Dripping Red

  1. Thank you for the article, I live in DC and wished I could have seen these pieces in person while on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.