Ebony G. Patterson: Dead Treez

Photography of installation with various patterned clothing on mannequins.

Ebony G. Patterson, Swag Swag Krew (from the Out and Bad series), 2011-14, installation view, John Michael Kohler Arts Center. Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, IL. Photo: John Michael Kohler Arts Center.


February 9–May 13, 2017


Artist List

Ebony G. Patterson


Ebony G. Patterson: Dead Treez showcases the artist’s mixed-media installations and jacquard-woven photo tapestries that explore class, gender, and race through the lens of popular culture, social media, dress, and personal adornment. Her highly embellished, illuminated imagery is intended to attract the gaze of the viewer. Once captivated, the viewer is challenged to look beyond Patterson’s mesmerizing surfaces for a deeper commentary. Influenced by Jamaica’s popular yet controversial dancehall culture, Patterson explores the paradoxical relationship between traditional gender codes and the bombastic aesthetics of dancehall pageantry. Meant to present a complex vision of masculinity, the sculptural installation is a meditation on dancehall fashion and culture, regarded as a celebration of the disenfranchised in postcolonial Jamaica. Although its fashion has long employed a camp sensibility rooted in spectacle, the growing influence of male metrosexuality worldwide has encouraged a style that incorporates more feminine sensibilities. By camouflaging the body with textiles, Patterson isolates and highlights the gestures and postures often associated with machismo. In her floor tapestries, Patterson borrows the flamboyant aspects of dancehall dress to draw attention to murder victims. Inspired by the images and reports of violent fatalities she sees circulated on social media, Patterson creates visually compelling images of the deceased that seduce the viewer into bearing witness to the underreported and unacknowledged brutality experienced by those living on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

Throughout Dead Treez, clothing is used to define and exemplify questions of visibility for the disenfranchised. By covering the body with pattern, Patterson references the popularity of skin bleaching and tattooing, suggesting that skin alteration is more than embellishment; it is an erasure motivated by a desire for presence.


Ebony G. Patterson: Dead Treez was organized by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and curated by Karen Patterson.

Ebony G. Patterson: Dead Treez is made possible by the generous support of Judith and Stanley Zabar; Barbara Karp Shuster; Christopher K. Ho; Marian C. Burke and Russell Burke; Peri and Nacho Arenas; Bill and Christy Gautreaux, Kansas City, MO; Janice Savin Williams and Christopher J. Williams; and Monique Meloche Gallery. Additional support is provided by the Director’s Circle, a leading Museum support group.