Nina Mae Fowler (British)
Known for her sumptuously detailed large-scale drawings and installations, Nina Mae Fowler’s work interrogates themes of celebrity, beauty, power and sexuality. Preoccupied with Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, Fowler treats the period as a crucible of our own, revelling in its sheer visual richness at the same time as it critiques our culture’s obsession with stardom, as well as the ubiquitous presence of the photographic lens in the reception of imagery.
In 2019, Fowler was awarded a major commission for The National Portrait Gallery. Entitled ‘Luminary Drawings’, the series comprises nine portraits of leading British Film Directors which now form part of the museums permanent collection, including Sam Mendes, Ken Loach, Nick Park and Sally Potter.
Since her nomination for the BP Portrait Prize in 2008, Fowler’s work has won widespread acclaim. It is featured in numerous collections of international significance and in 2015 a monograph of her work entitled Measuring Elvis was published by Cob Gallery, London. The book features
a commentary from an array of cultural luminaries including the curator Sandy Nairne and the playwright Polly Stenham. Her most recent publication Ruined Finery (Cob Gallery 2020) catalogues Fowler’s drawing and sculpture practice from 2015-2020 alongside contributions from writers including Alissa Bennett and Dame Marina Warner.
Nina Mae Fowler (b.1981) has been shortlisted for numerous prestigious prizes and awards, including the Jerwood Drawing Prize (2015 & 2010), Aesthetica Art Prize (2014), Drawing Now Award (2014), Young Masters Prize (2012) and the BP Portrait Award (2008). Her works have been exhibited internationally, including frequent solo exhibitions in London, Paris and Leipzig, and are held in public collections including New, Bailliol and Magdalene Colleges (Oxford, UK), The National Portrait Gallery (London, UK), the ‘Try-me’ collection, a public foundation in Richmond (Virginia, USA) and Fondation d’entreprise Francès (France). In 2018, David Lynch’s establishment Silencio in Paris held a retrospective of Fowler’s work. She is included in private collections throughout Europe, the US, the Middle East and Asia. International film, art, music and fashion luminaries such as Sir Ridley Scott, Jude Law, Caroline Issa, Daniel Templon, Laurant Dumas, Roland Mouret and John Maybury are amongst her collectors.
Mabel: bad, bad, bad
“…the breath of scandal had wilted her career and burned away her health.” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1930
Mabel Normand was, as so many of my subjects were, misunderstood. She was famed for her astonishing comedic talent during the silent film era but her private life was dogged with scandal which fueled her addictions and self-destructive behaviour. In this drawing I have superimposed my hands onto a standard publicity photo, as if she is holding up the edges of her own mouth in a forced smile.
The following is an excerpt from ‘The Great Heart. Hollywood Pays Tribute to Tragic, Stoic Mabel Normand’ By Charleson Gray:
“I can take it on the chin,” was her cry to the last. She could endure anything. That was her credo, the smiling challenge to the powers of darkness that she could withstand the slings and arrows of whatever outrageous fortune it might be their whim to direct toward her.
The title of this new pieces comes from a poem written by Mabel herself:
Short, Short Story
I’m bad, bad, bad!
But I’ll really keep my engagement. If there was one sprig of poison-ivy In a field of four-leaf-clovers,
I’d pick it up.
If it was raining carbolic acid,
I’d be the dumb-bell sponge.
Mabel Normand (1893 – 1930)