Beauty, danger and cake

Ebony G. Patterson’s “… in times like these…” explores issue of gun violence

Cakes typically evoke birthday parties and celebrations. But a recent project by Ebony G. Patterson — a 2006 alumna of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis — transformed the idea of the cake into something entirely more serious.

Titled “…in times like these…,” the special one-night-only artwork consisted of a large cake — created in collaboration with Simone Faure, founder of St. Louis’ acclaimed La Patisserie Chouquette — measuring approximately 6 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet high.

Covering the cake were dozens of toy guns, fabricated from chocolate and candy, as well as sugar flowers modeled after poisonous species. The effect was at once opulent, celebratory and elegiac — an edible installation that challenged viewers to examine their own perceptions of menace and allure.

“Ebony’s work deals broadly with questions about visibility and identity — including the body, gender, race and class,” said Allison Unruh, associate curator for the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, which commissioned the piece as part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of its Fumihiko Maki-designed building.

“For this project, Ebony chose to address the pressing issue of gun violence,” Unruh said. “The uneasy mingling of beauty and danger, of innocence and violence, is intentionally provocative. Patterson uses this unexpected imagery to stage a moment of confrontation, disrupting typical expectations of what the celebratory act of sharing cake implies.

“By inviting the audience to partake in eating this highly charged cake together, the artist instigates a form of communal action,” Unruh said. “The work invites us to confront the pervasiveness of gun violence in American culture and how it affects all members of society.”

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