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Margaret Bowland’s Paintings Surprise, Intrigue Audiences

Margaret Bowland’s first solo exhibition in Manhattan last spring at Babcock Galleries (March 1-May 3) was met with considerable interest and demand, with nine of the 18 paintings and pastels on display selling to buyers in New York, the Southeast, the Southwest and the Midwest, according to gallery owner John Driscoll.

NEW YORK—Margaret Bowland’s first solo exhibition in Manhattan last spring at Babcock Galleries (March 1-May 3) was met with considerable interest and demand, with nine of the 18 paintings and pastels on display selling to buyers in New York, the Southeast, the Southwest and the Midwest, according to gallery owner John Driscoll.

Bowland’s work has been part of group shows in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Washington, D.C. and even Cologne, Germany—but for many New Yorkers, the Babcock show marked their first exposure to her work. Babcock began representing the artist last December.

Driscoll said four of the five pastels were sold, at prices ranging from $8,500/20,000 based on size, while five other paintings ranging in price from $24,000/48,000 found buyers.

The artworks in the spring show, collectively titled “Excerpts from the Great American Songbook,” were shown during the summer at the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina (May 18-July 31). The paintings are all depictions of a nine-year-old African-American girl named J.J. wearing costumes and white theater paint.

Bowland “met this girl through J.J.’s aunt,” Driscoll said. When the young girl put on clothing and white face paint, which she had come across in Bowland’s studio, the artist said it reminded her of women throughout history who were always trying to make themselves whiter, such as geishas in Japan, or Queen Elizabeth I, who caked her face with so much white paint that she became ill from the arsenic.

Driscoll said Bowland typically explores issues of race, femininity and societal expectations. He noted that her work draws “a wide range of responses from viewers of all cultural backgrounds, from surprise to intrigue, sadness to amazement.”

Born in Burlington, North Carolina, Bowland currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is a faculty member of the New York Academy of Art.

As the artist’s relationship to the gallery is relatively new, Babcock has only a few paintings by Bowland that are outside of the “J.J. series.” These paintings, from an art history-conscious series titled “Olympia,” are priced higher—one is $85,000—based on the size and compositional complexity. Driscoll noted that there is no secondary market as yet for Bowland’s work.

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