Artist at the Crossroads

Ebony G. Patterson’s Untitled Species I (2010–11), foreground, is featured as part of a major three-museum exhibit, Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, in New York City. Patterson’s work is being exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem. (Courtesy of the New York Times)

In its review of the Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, a major three-museum exhibit running through Oct. 21, the New York Times called out alumna Ebony G. Patterson’s portrait collage Untitled Species I (2010–11) — on view at the Studio Museum — for particular praise, labeling the piece as a “knockout” that “suggests the double-edged potential of radical identity transformation.”

Patterson, MFA ’06, is a mixed-media artist who frequently investigates issues of culture, identity, gender and the female body in her work. She splits her time between Kingston (her hometown), Jamaica, and Lexington, Ky., where she is an assistant professor of painting and drawing at the University of Kentucky.

Washington Magazine recently caught up with the award-winning Patterson to ask her about Caribbean: Crossroads of the World and what she is working on now.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a part of Caribbean: Crossroads of the Worldexhibition?

A: The Caribbean Crossroads exhibition indexes a ‘happening’ moment in the Caribbean. I believe it — much like the Infinite Islands exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2007 — brings real attention to the art coming from the region and its diaspora, and the history that is connected to it.

Q: It sounds as if the exhibit showcases art from a vast array of perspectives. What are your feelings with regard to what the curators have conceived, or are hoping to accomplish?

A: I believe they have begun to look into the history; however, the show could have also fleshed through the significance of the history in relation to artists working now. I think some of the thematics of the show could have been narrowed for more in-depth dialogue about discourses coming from works made about and in the region.

The show does have merit, though, and it does contribute to a dialogue that already exists.

Q: How does sharing your time between Jamaica and Kentucky inform your art?

A: My work is grounded in popular culture in Jamaica that is dancehall space. So my works are constantly informing my experiences at home in Jamaica. My family and friends are in Jamaica, and I was born on the island, so I’m routed by its every fiber.

Q: What connection do you see between teaching and your own art?

A: I believe the way I teach is informed by my practice as an artist, which is routed in rigor, investigation, experimentation and finding ways to push myself and, by extension, the work — whether it be in material or scale or the complexity of an idea.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am working on [a new project] Fambily to be shown in 2013 at the Frost Museum in Miami. I am using the gang as a way to re-envision family, and to look at the complicated relations between men in the gang. Given all the conversations we are having about family, I think it can add to the timely discourse. I am also [working on] a performance-based project that I may execute for the National Biennial this year at the National Gallery of Jamaica. (See * below for more information on exhibitions showcasing Patterson’s work.)

Q: Is there anything else you’d like your fellow alumni to know about your work?

A: Just that I am enjoying my current moment, and the work keeps me constantly excited.

* Patterson is a four-time participant in Jamaica’s National Biennial at the National Gallery of Jamaica. She has shown her work in numerous group exhibitions in Jamaica, the United States, Martinique, Haiti, France and the United Kingdom. Recent solo exhibitions include Ebony G. Patterson on the Wall and in the Gallery at moniquemeloche Gallery (Chicago); Fashion Ova’ Style at See Line Gallery at the Pacific Design Center (West Hollywood, Calif.); and Gangstas, Disciplez + the Doiley Boyz at Edna Manley College’s CAG[e] Gallery (Kingston, Jamaica).

Patterson is the recipient of several awards and scholarships in Jamaica and internationally. In 2005, she won the Jury Prize in Jamaica’s 2005 Super Plus Under-40 Artist-of-the-Year Competition, which carried a $100,000 honorarium. As part of that prize, she displayed her work in a solo show at the Mutual Gallery in Kingston. In 2006, she was honored with the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Art and Culture.

For more on Ebony G. Patterson, visit zoomshare.

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