Over a decade ago, artist Ebony G. Patterson adhered to standard modes of portraiture, depicting her subjects either in full-length form or from the shoulders up. Despite interrupting traditions—perching her figures against highly patterned grounds with flesh often decorated or even obscured by ornamentation—she depicted unabridged subjects, their limbs and heads intact. But over time, Patterson’s practice has increasingly refused straightforward figuration. The body as a whole has been lost and her subjects are richer for it.
Parallel to her aesthetic strategies of bodily dismemberment and obfuscation, her picture planes have become less contained and less uniform. In the four large-scale artworks, replete with intricate detail, which anchor her current installation, “she is land…she is the mourning…” at Monique Meloche Gallery, an assortment of faux flora and fauna appear ready to spring out of compositional planes, propelled by an unruly array of textured paper, embroidered appliqué and costume jewelry. While ill-fated insects and blades of grass creep toward the edges in her two works on paper, encased in oversized shadow boxes, a lone specimen has escaped. Heed the sly iguana roosting atop the picture frame, her neck craned upwards and triumphant. Patterson’s tapestries similarly threaten to unravel in the effortless drip of fringe, tassels and beads that pool onto the floor in lugubrious piles.