Danforth scholar named Jamaica’s best young artist

Ebony Patterson, a graduate student in printmaking in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, has won the Jury Prize in Jamaica’s 2005 Super Plus Under-40 Artist-of-the-Year Competition.

Launched in 2001 by The Mutual Gallery and Art Centre in Kingston, the competition is open to Jamaican artists under 40, living in Jamaica or abroad.

Ebony Patterson, winner of Jamaica's 2005 Super Plus Under-40 Artist-of-the-Year Competition, with two panels in her large, mixed-media print triptych *The Venus Investigations*.
Ebony Patterson, winner of Jamaica’s 2005 Super Plus Under-40 Artist-of-the-Year Competition, with two panels in her large, mixed-media print triptych *The Venus Investigations*.

The Jury Prize carries a $100,000 (Jamaican) honorarium. In addition, Patterson will display her work in a solo show at the Mutual Gallery in July.

“It was a pretty good summer,” quipped Patterson, a Kingston native who arrived at WUSTL last year as a Danforth Scholar in Art. “It’s all still soaking in.”

Patterson submitted a portfolio to the Super Plus competition late last spring and was one of 10 artists chosen to produce two new works over the summer. From these pieces — underwritten by small honorariums — six finalists were selected and their works exhibited at the Mutual Gallery in July and August. The Jury Prize was awarded Aug. 4.

Patterson, who earned an undergraduate degree in painting from Jamaica’s Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, frequently combines printmaking and painting techniques to investigate issues of culture, identity and the female body.

One recent triptych, The Venus Investigations, juxtaposes the famous Venus of Willendorf — a prehistoric fertility statuette, which Patterson reproduces in tight, repeated rows — with larger, more gestural and abstracted forms suggesting decapitated figures.

“I was looking at the body and how the perceptions of others influence the way we see ourselves,” Patterson said. “And then the work started to shift. I felt like using the figure was becoming too much of a ‘method,’ so I started to think about ways to talk about the body without using the figure.”

The results, while visually arresting, can be surprising and even a bit disturbing, exploring issues such as women’s health and the misogyny of Jamaican curse words.

Skin #2 — included in the Super Plus show — is a glowing, ethereal collage of Japanese paper and sanitary napkins, sealed in polyurethane and mounted on a light-box. Vaginal Trancelations consists of chunks of cow fat encased in clear resin blocks.

“It’s all about the body and very autobiographical,” Patterson said. “I guess you could say that my work is going in a more sculptural direction,” though, “The permanence of the object doesn’t really matter to me.

“The body is ever-changing; identity is ever-changing. I’m interested in the work changing while I’m changing.”

Patterson has won scholarships and awards from Edna Manley College (1998), the Royal Overseas League Travel (2002) and the Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art in France (2003), among others. At Washington University, she has received the Nancy Glanstien Scholarship for Graduate Students (2004) and the Vicky Award (2005).

In addition to the Super Plus exhibition, Patterson will display her work at the National Gallery of Jamaica in December.

Her first solo show, titled Dialysis, is on display through Oct. 21 at the University of Montana.