Un|Fixed Homeland, Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, 2016 Catalog: Un|Fixed Homeland - Page 40

Frank Bowling b. British Guiana 1934 Frank Bowling was born in 1934 in British Guiana, in the small trading town of Bartica in the county of Essequibo. At six years old, his family moved to the port town of New Amsterdam where his mother, Agatha Elizabeth Franklin Bowling, a talented dressmaker, set up a general store, named the “Bowling’s Variety Store” and grew it to become the family’s crown jewel. The image of “Bowling’s Variety Store,” or as the artist simply calls it “mother’s house,” emerges as an impressive and reoccurring presence in several of Bowling’s paintings and their titles. In 1964, Bowling began screen printing the image of “mother’s house” in red and green onto multiple blank canvasses. Throughout the 1960s, he would create several abstract large-scale works where the screenprinted “mother’s house” was both a central and pseudo-visible presence. Featured here, Mother’s House with Beware of the Dog, 1966, is one of the many works where the façade of “mother’s house” is visible. The Bowling’s Variety Store, Main Street, New Amsterdam, British Guiana, 1966 Photograph from the artist’s archive 11 1/2 x 15 3/4 in. Courtesy of the artist 40 accompanying archival black and white images (1953 and 1966) from the artist’s personal family collection illustrates the architectural view used by Bowling in the series of “Mother’s House” paintings. The image shows bold letters that mark the grand three-story clapperboard building located on Main Street as the “Bowling’s Variety Store” and the artist’s mother posing within the store’s front gates. The 1966 photograph provides a sense of the full architectural beauty of the structure—bountiful windows encircling the house are wide open while the British flag looms above and a windswept palm tree hovers behind. Reflecting on the importance of New Amsterdam to his oeuvre, Bowling notes: “…New Amsterdam is the most important place, and it reappears all the time…in my quiet moments it reappears. It was a town that was full of terror, and at the same time it was marvelous … it belonged to me.”1 1 Mel Gooding, Frank Bowling, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2011. Bowling’s Variety Store, Main Street, New Amsterdam, British Guiana, 1953 Photograph from the artist’s archive 11 1/2 x 15 3/4 in. Courtesy of the artist Frank Bowling Mother’s House with Beware of the Dog, 1966 Acrylic on paper 56 1/2 x 47 1/2 in. Courtesy of the artist and Hales London New York 41