Colorful clumps of flowers, crochet leaves and layers of woven gems are what first catch the eye in artist Ebony G. Patterson’s new tapestries, which make their debut next month at Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago. But take a closer look at the group of impressively large floor pieces, each measuring around eight feet wide and over six feet long, and you’ll find disturbing forces within the works.
Patterson’s first step in creating these multi-layered works is to scour the Internet for images of murder victims, using popular image-sharing sites as a starting point. “Over the past two or three years I’ve been collecting images via social media…of people [who] have died violently,” she says, explaining the morbid backdrops.
It is the circulation of these images and the visibility of their subjects, people of color that may otherwise go unseen, that interests Patterson most.
The artist takes the figure from these photographs and applies the shape of the body onto the base of the tapestry. Then she adds elaborate beading, heavy sequins and crochet to create a layered visual experience.
“The audience is seduced by all of the prettiness,” Patterson said of her new work. But once we dig through the foliage and bright hues that the Jamaican-born artist initially applies, we unearth “the underreported and unacknowledged brutality experienced by those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder,” according to the press release.
“I’m hoping by slowing the viewer down in these experiences, through the use of objects and this really encrusted surface, to pull the viewer in to see further and raise questions about how we engage in the act of looking.”
The embellishment and lush details splayed on top of the somber images are not new to the artist’s work. Long fascinated by the aesthetic and symbolic aspects of Jamaican dancehall culture, Patterson uses over the top decoration to explore how we perceive certain colors and motifs and how we adapt our notion of beauty depending on whether the subject is viewed as male or female.