The de Menil Gallery Archive

"It Ain't Necessarily So" by Margaret Bowland

From the artist's personal statement:
"I have long been fascinated, as a woman, at how much we must disguise ourselves to be attractive. Do we then have a clue as to what we really look like or who we really are?

When Velasquez painted his masterpiece, 'Las Meninas,' the center of the painting shows a blond child being offered a terra cotta vial by a lady in waiting prostrate at her feet. That vial contained a 'whitening solution.' Why was this the moment Velasquez chose to depict? He is painting a child who embodies the ambitions of other people’s projections in the royal court.

Painting on skin is by intent a metaphor to expose basic questions of self-identity, which all people undergo internally as a part of the maturation process.It is also reflective of the last five hundred years of global cultures, who sought to cover their women in make-up, powders, paints, even mud. This painting on skin dates from ancient times to the fashion houses of Paris, New York, and Los Angeles.

Psychologists have learned that at about the age of seven children become aware of the fact that they are not truly unconditionally loved. The lucky ones have known unconditional love from a parent but all must soon face this fact. So begins the time when looking into the face of a stranger, many ask: “Whom do you wish to see when you look at me? What does it take to earn your love?”

In many of my paintings I have depicted both Caucasian and African Americans involved in what I see as a struggle to express the 'self.' My subjects triumph. They look back at you through all the make-up, the costumes, the times in history in which they are placed, completely whole.

Their eyes hold their unique souls and stare you down. None of my subjects are ever victims."