Lovia Gyarkye, NEW YORK TIMES , May 21, 2021

The artist Ebony G. Patterson shares an intricately embellished work that asks what it means to grieve. Ebony G. Patterson’s “...the wailing...guides us home...and there is a bellying on the land...” (2021).

Ebony G. Patterson’s “...the wailing...guides us home...and there is a bellying on the land...” (2021).Credit...Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago

In each installment of The Artists, T highlights a recent or little-seen work by a Black artist, along with a few words from that artist putting the work in context. This week, we’re looking at a tapestry by Ebony G. Patterson, whose solo exhibition “…when the cuts erupt…the garden rings…and the warning is a wailing…” is on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art San José. She also has work in “Staying Power,” a group show curated by Monument Lab in Philadelphia.


Where and when did you make this work? The images were shot in the summer of 2019 in Kingston, and I assembled the piece in my studio in Chicago throughout 2020. After I take and edit the photos, I send them to a commercial weaver who works them into the tapestry. When it comes back to me, I stiffen the fabric by coating the back with glue and gel. Then, I start décollaging, cutting parts of the tapestry out and determining the initial form. After that, I collage — adding fabrics, embellishments, trims and glitter.

Can you describe what is going on in the work? 
The woman is larger than life. We’re not seeing the final gesture, we’re happening upon a moment within a series of gestures. She is in a posture of contemplation or at a point of engagement. We see at the top of the neck that there is life sprouting, so I’m thinking about notions of regeneration, and the garden as a site of restoration, rebirth, burial and violence.

Right next to the figure is a wreath covered with a black ribbon that says “beloved,” and below that is a black snake. Here, I’m thinking about the symbolism of snakes within a garden. They are important to the ecosystem, but metaphorically, if you think of biblical stories, the snake is also the one that deceives and misleads. Then we see a figure kneeling. When I was making this work, I wasn’t thinking of Colin Kaepernick, but it’s interesting how it falls into the piece.