The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announces today that Margaret Bowland of Brooklyn, N.Y., has been awarded first prize for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2009 People’s Choice Award. A cash prize of $500 will be given to the artist. The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition includes two different awards. The expert jury selected the 49 pieces featured in the exhibition and the seven prize winners. Visitors to the exhibition, both in the gallery and online, then cast votes for the People’s Choice Award, selecting their favorite of the exhibited works. Voting closed January 18.
Bowland’s work was also recognized by the expert jury as a commended entry. Her oil-on-linen work titled “Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna” depicts three figures in white makeup dressed in the two traditions of bride and geisha. Bowland commented on her work for the wall label in the exhibition: “My girls became…images requesting acceptance and protection through ritual purification.The painting is a scene of victory over these rites. My bride and her doubled flower girl look out at us. True, tradition covers them in white, but who they are shines through as their eyes meet ours.”
“The People’s Choice Award is an opportunity to engage our visitors—both online and in the exhibition—in a conversation with contemporary portraiture,” said Brandon Fortune, acting director and curator of painting and sculpture of the museum. “By asking visitors to vote, we inquire, ‘Which of these portraits speaks to you?’”
Matthew Mitchell of Amherst, Mass., and Sonia Paulino of Los Angeles were voted for second and third place, respectively. Mitchell’s oil-on-canvas painting "Portrait 23, Rick Yarosh" depicts Staff Sergeant Rick Yarosh, a burn survivor from a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq. Paulino’s photograph, “Samuel and Thalia, Echo Park,” shows a man holding his dog in the park.
The Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2009 received more than 3,300 entries from emerging and mid-career portrait and figurative artists from across the United States. The next entry period will be announced in 2011. Finalists for the 2009 competition were chosen in early May, and the winner, Dave Woody of Fort Collins, Colo., was announced at the Portrait Competition awards celebration in October.
Expert jurors for the competition were Wanda M. Corn, professor emerita in art history at Stanford University; Kerry James Marshall, artist; Brian O’Doherty, artist and critic; and Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The New Yorker. Jurors from the National Portrait Gallery were Martin E. Sullivan, director; Carolyn K. Carr, deputy director and chief curator; and Fortune.
This competition is made possible by the generosity of Virginia Outwin Boochever, whose gift fosters the acquisition of innovative contemporary portraiture for the Portrait Gallery. This triennial event invites figurative artists to submit entries to be considered for prizes and display at the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition is open to the public through August 22.
Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna / Margaret Bowland / Brooklyn, New York / Oil on linen, 2008 / 203.2 x 182.9 cm (80 x 72 in.)