Ebony G. Patterson Asks Tough Questions in ...for little whispers...
In her most recent solo exhibition ...for little whispers... at the Baltimore Museum of Art, rising art world star, Ebony G. Patterson, uses primarily found objects that are sparkly and shiny to tell hard truths about our society. The exhibition features two works, ...and babies too… an installation in the Berman Textile Gallery, and ...made for kids… a sculpture on view in the museum’s American Wing. Patterson’s work is fantastical and immersive but simultaneously makes us remember how humankind has failed throughout history and in the present.
...and babies too… commands visually with bright pink polka-dotted wallpaper and a table supported by toy cars. Covering the table is a jacquard tapestry with digitally embroidered appliqué which recalls childhood, like rainbows, a bag of Skittles, a doll-like image of a child. The piece was made in reaction to the killing of nine girls and nine boys in Patterson’s native Kingston, Jamaica, and the ensuing unfair media coverage.
The second work, ...made for kids…, a sculptural disruption of sorts, is juxtaposed next to Joshua Johnson’s painting, Charles Herman Stricker Wilmans, 1804. Johnson, son of a slave mother and a white slave-owning father, was the first known African-American painter in the U.S. Ironically, Johnson mostly painted portraits of white families in the Baltimore area. In this portrait Johnson depicts Charles a young boy holding a toy gun. Just below the portrait, are an assortment of toy guns that Patterson embellished with sequins. Patterson’s installation of toy guns and Johnson’s portrait of a boy with a toy gun from the 19th century, interrogates the gender roles forced upon children through play (i.e. boys and guns, girls and dolls). There is a long sinister history with guns and children in the U.S., from young black and brown children being killed by gun violence [and often being put on trial for their own murders], and the horrific school shootings that continue increasingly.
Ebony G. Patterson’s work is difficult and beautiful. Her work causes viewers to think, at first glance what is fun and whimsical, reminds us of our violent past and future. You can even almost miss it, if you don’t look around.
Ebony G. Patterson’s ..for little whispers… will be on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art though April 7, 2019.