Molly Bounds is an American artist who paints stolen, secret moments of quiet contemplation. We’ve all been there, lost in thought, losing minutes of the day staring out the window or more usually at the bedroom wall. Molly wants to capture these ordinary moments, enchanted by the familiar but often forgotten parts of the everyday.
Her soft, cool palette and smooth brushstrokes evoke a sense of calm, coupled with melancholic blues and purples her paintings create moments of serenity. Her images are all about peeping without being voyeuristic. It is as if we are looking into a person’s most intimate moments, stealing a glimpse into their bedrooms, peering behind the curtain and discovering them at their most vulnerable.
Below, we speak to the artist to hear more about her work and what inspires it.
It’s Nice That: What inspires you?
Molly Bounds: Story-telling inspires me. Getting to tell a story from your perspective, if there is an audience, can create a collective understanding of “what happened”, whether it’s truthful or not.
I think about who has been telling stories for the longest, and what is understood as truth based on that perspective. It seems as though our understanding of reality is finally beginning to shift because we are getting to hear others views.
INT: Could you tell us about your creative journey?
MB: I’m extremely ADHD. Paying attention was hard. I struggled with school because the information didn’t stick unless it was visual. So I got very into comics, an art form that can depict thought processes. A lot of the comics I’m drawn to use abstraction to communicate mental states.
I thought I wanted to make comics, but finding one image that could portray a whole action came more naturally to me. So I started painting, focusing on the singular rather than the multiple. It was a much more quiet and solitary experience than I was used to, and I think my change in imagery spoke to that finding.
INT: Why do you choose to paint close-ups and intimate, ordinary scenes?
MB: I like painting people in familiar yet personal settings. My mom used to drive home from work, pull into the driveway and sit there with the car off, sometimes for over 30 minutes; this was strange to me at the time, and it worried me. I thought that it meant she was very sad.
About a decade later, someone asked me why I did the same thing. I didn’t realise, until that moment, that it was something I did to have a little more time with my thoughts. I like to catch people in that state, in a setting where that deep contemplation can make them unaware of how much time is passing.
INT: What mood do you want these paintings to evoke and how does your colour palette emphasise this?
MB: As a printmaker, I learned to give myself constraints. When I started painting, my limited palette carried over, but I was challenging myself to find ways that gave quiet colours a lot of strength. It was about hushing the louder tones enough to make the quiet ones the focal point.
I want to give power to things that feel small, to visualise action in frozen moments between hesitation, urgency, and fleeting opportunity, but hopefully erring on the side of possibility.
INT: What interests you about peeping through windows and secret, personal moments?
MB: I like the complexity of internal dialogue surrounding notions of watching and doing. Who is watching, and who is doing, and playing with that relationship from as many angles as possible.
My favourite comics are in-depth character studies, with unlikely protagonists: a tragedy from a bystander’s point of view, or a story where every extra character becomes the main character. I want to tell stories like the ones I read, ones that exploit the unspoken parts of human nature that inadvertently speak to shared experience.