Art of This World: Ebony G. Patterson, and The Grand Rue Sculptors


I found this post via the Canadian afrofuturist website Outterregion:

(Note: I edited some of it)

Ebony G. Patterson

Justice, truth be ours forever
Jamaica land we love
– Excerpt from Jamaican National Anthem

The media has been showing only stories of violence from Jamaica for some time now due to unrest in West Kingston. It was very important to me tonight to share some ‘positive vibes’ from Jamaica and to talk about some afrofuturist art happening there and in the Caribbean.

The first artist I will profile is Ebony G. Patterson. She is a young woman, born in Kingston, Jamaica. She is an Assistant Professor of Painting at University of Kentucky and in Kingston. I call Ebony an afrofuturist as her work challenges the status quo in Jamaican culture, rejects the traditional and expected, and pushes the boundaries of art. For example, her earlier work exploring women’s bodies “focused on the vagina as an object and, by implication, examined the taboos that surround this body part and its functions within Jamaican culture.” …

Her more recent works focus on the male body. More specifically she looks at contradictions of men’s appearance in Jamaican dancehall culture, e.g. skin bleaching, eyebrow shaping – traditionally feminine features, while the men also portray themselves as hardcore, masculine gangstas.
The picture above this post is from her installation, “Gangstaz, Disciplez + The Doiley Boyz”….
Also, Ebony participated in the 2009 Jamaica Arts Cultural Exchange. For information on this event and more on Ebony’s work, go here.

The second feature in this post is about a group of afrofuturist artists called The Grand Rue Sculptors. They are a community of artists living in a downtown slum neighbourhood in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I call them afrofuturists because they, like Ebony, push boundaries – do not accept the life that has been given to them and create new realities. They live daily with the reality that life as an artist in Haiti is near impossible – no government support and the inability to even get visas to see their own work displayed outside of the country. In 2009, they developed and hosted the Ghetto Biennale – and invited international artists to participate and explore “what happens when first world art objectives encounter third world artistic reality, and when Western artists try to make art in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” (source: http://www.yoonsoo.com)
Read about Ghetto Biennale here.

One love,
Karen

Ebony G. Patterson, Untitled (Haitian Flag Project) (2009) – detail: Erzili Freda

Patterson’s art reminds me of Kehinde Wiley’s in that she takes people and places them in settings that would seem unnatural, which makes the striking contrast a great way to confront viewers and ask why those conditions are considered natural in the first place. She also reminds me of Wangechi Mutu is her love for the displacing nature of the grotesque and hybridity to question norms of gender, sexuality and body: “beauty, gender, body, and the grotesque are an ongoing discussion in my work. I am enthralled by the repulsive, the bizarre and the objectness of bodies and the contradictions that both have to art historically and culturally. The Jamaican vernacular, gendered cultural symbolisms and stereotypes serve as a platform for these discussions. I am enthused by words, conditions and experiences that objectify and abjectify.” Her collections, like Gully Godz in Conversation and Gangstas, Disciplez + the Doiley Boyz, which mixes Vodou flag aesthetic, Vodou goddess characteristic and the bling aspect gang culture in Jamaica and Haiti, exemplify this hybridity through the gender-bending nature of Vodou and other religious rituals, dancehall and gang culture, and cosmetics (ex. skin bleaching). Her website is here.

The Grand Rue Sculptors also have a website, Atis-Rezistans: The Sculptors of Grand Rue and Leah Gordon‘s short documentary about them is below:

Grand Rue is the main avenue that runs through downtown Port au Prince, Haiti. At its southern end is a community that has a historical tradition of arts, crafts and religious practice. Contemporary Haitian artists Celeur, Eugène, Claude and Guyodo all grew up in this ghetto atmosphere of junkyard make-do and artistic endeavour. Their powerful sculptural collages of have transformed the detritus of a failing economy into bold, radical and warped sculptures. Their work references their shared African & Haitian cultural heritage, a dystopian sci-fi view of the future and the transformative act of assemblage. The monumental works they have created are liberally scattered around this slum area, transforming the clamorous area into an organic art installation. This multi-layered film is a portrait of a neighbourhood both materially poor but culturally rich, and a meditation of the links between sex, death and creativity as expressed through the Vodou spirit Gede, that influences all their work. (2008)

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