An Exploration on Softness and Femininity: The paintings of Margaret Zox Brown [Bellus Magazine]

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Margaret Zox Brown’s oil paintings are reminiscent of the lushness and grandeur of spring. Think large canvases adorned with soft, sweeping colors and rounded edges. The Manhattan-based, born and raised expressionist oil painter revels in this softness — she primarily creates human figures, flowers and fruit.

“My number one focus is figures because, to me, they’re the ultimate in expressing human connection,” Brown says. “Flowers are a visual and emotional support [to those figures] and food is sustenance; I love the organic nature of all of them. I avoid hard edges and everything I paint is round and graceful.”

The blooming flowers, ripe fruit and rounded figures immediately conjure images of womanhood. They are subtle glimpses of motherhood. Not unlike bearing children, the fruit represent new life, ripe and ready. This imagery also represents a woman’s strength and perseverance, especially in today’s political climate.

“I definitely think there is an origin in femininity,” Brown says about her work. “I am a single mother and am proud of being a woman. I am thrilled of what I have accomplished because of it. I was moved by our political climate — we had, for the first time ever, a woman running for president. I feel empowered by it.”

Brown, who has been divorced twice with two children from two different marriages has had her struggles.

“For the majority of my time as a mother, I was a single mother. I discovered or really became open to what I love and is me at my best (my painting) during this time,” Brown says. “I was not encouraged to pursue my art, but rather to get a “real job.” It was at times very difficult with money struggles as well as balancing the allowing of the real me to emerge while at the same time taking care of my little family.”

Despite all this, her work always reflects happiness and joy.

“People have asked me why does my art never reflect when I am down or unhappy” she says. “Creating art makes me happy; it is me at my best, so every painting seems to come out with a colorful harmony. And this is a parallel to how I live my life.”

Brown studied oil painting at New York City’s 92nd Street Y for 29 years, creating a solid foundation. From 1998 through 2016, Brown learned from Southern oil painter, Brian Rutenberg, who expanded her color language and gave her background into Art History. The breadth of her work grew to include transparent colors and the concept of the flat picture plane.

Brown has always drawn, from her childhood to present day. In her late twenties, she took her first oil painting class and discovered the wonders of color. She recalls really wanting to rub shoulders with the classical masters. That’s why she chose to pursue it.

“[I admire] Pablo Picasso for his drawings, Henri Matisse for his flat picture plane, Willem deKooning for his sloppy messy paint, Paul Gauguin for his colors, and Georgio Morandi for the “take your breath away” peace I feel when viewing his work.”

When it comes to all her paintings, Brown says a huge portion of the making of each piece takes place in her head.

“After thinking about the emotion I want to express or the connection I want to make, I then I do drawings to come up with the structure. With these drawings, I am unearthing the real soul of my subject. And then,  the painting will be the complete expression that I wanted to get out all along.” Brown explains. “[For upcoming projects], I have done several flower paintings for spring and will paint fruit as we head into summer; I usually eat fruit when I am painting them. The figure painting I have been thinking about will incorporate some floral imagery, even if subtle, to relate to the feeling of spring and summer.”

Brown’s provocative pieces are pleasing to the eye, evoking feelings of warmth and comfort. They’re also powerful in their softness and strong in their vulnerability. The themes and style may be the familiar, but each new piece is dynamic and engaging in its own way.

“In June, I am having a solo exhibition titled Skin on the 5th Floor of 470 7th Avenue in New York City’s Garment District. In the lobby of this building, three of my large paintings are permanently up on display.”

The opening will be on Tuesday, June 12th from 5:00pm – 9:00pm. Other than this upcoming show, Brown’s work can be found at www.margaretzoxbrown.com

Originally written for Bellus Magazine: CLICK HERE FOR THE STORY. 

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