Margaret Zox Brown: Translating Her Everyday Life Kindred Connections Through Paintings
New York City, notorious for its busy streets and impersonal attitude, is its usual bustling self, but Margaret Zox Brown doesn’t notice any of it. Instead she sits inside the basement of her apartment building with two well-known porters of the building. She had asked them if she could paint them because she, along with all the other tenants of the building, loved them and their kind spirits. The cousins had led Brown downstairs to show her their tools, which she suggests they lean on, then begins to paint.
“Kindred,” the title later given to this painting and her entire series, is one of many in a new collection Brown is experimenting with. She’s lived in Manhattan all her life and has always lived in the midst of the hustle and bustle until now. Now, after 60 years of developing seemingly insignificant friendships with those she passes on the street, Brown has begun to really pay attention to those friendships through her series titled “Kindred.”
“My art, which is an extension of me, is all about expressing emotion and feelings,” says Brown. “Choosing someone as my subject comes from a connection I have already made that I then think about later.”
Her muses can be anyone. They can be the porters from her building, her friends, or someone she might pass on the street. Once the inspiration hits, Brown uses oil paints to bring that person to life on a canvas. While she has always used oil as her preferred medium, Brown’s 29 years of study at the 92nd St. Y, drastically changed the way Brown viewed her artwork. It was there she was introduced to transparent colors, which influenced this new series. She loves anything that can vary the viscosity of her paint which is why she enjoys oil so much; it’s easy to work with and easy to play with, leaving plenty of room for exploration.
Now, Brown doesn’t just take a moment from her day and paints it without a second thought. When she realizes a connection she’s made has a bigger meaning in her heart, she sits with it for a while until she can identify exactly what that connection makes her feel like. Only then does she dip a brush in paint.
“Hello My Friend” is the subject of many years of friendship and conversations. In this piece, Brown depicts a smiling fruit and vegetable salesman who works on the streets of New York City from the crack of dawn until the cover of night. Every single time Brown saw him on the street she would wave and he would say cheerily, “Hello, my friend!”
One day, she asked if she could paint him. “Yes,” he said. “Because you are my friend.” It’s hard to get people to be vulnerable enough to be painted. And not one of those touristy depictions that don’t require an artist to really capture the essence of someone, but it’s hard to let someone allow you to really look at them and know who they are. “He let me take many photos of him and his fruits,” Brown said about her friend. “For him, it was clear he did this for me because of the friendship we have established, which for me, is totally the point.”
Brown doesn’t go hunting for these connections like a pig does for a truffle; she simply allows for them to happen. Instead of putting metaphorical (or literal) headphones in her ears and living solely in her own universe, she invests herself and her personality in every single interaction of her day. In her series “Kindred,” she meets all her muses by accident, not knowing that they are muses when she talks to them. Brown only gives them the opportunity to talk to her, instead of creating a bubble of concrete around her.
“They are kindred spirits with each other as well as with everyone in their world,” she says. “They exemplify the essence of this entire series; connected like kin to something intangible, beautiful, identifiable, and magnificent.”
Her new series “Kindred” will be available for viewing from September 20 to October 12 at Modified Arts in Phoenix, AZ.
Cover image via Margaret Zox Brown - “Coffee, Mami!”