Artist Ebony G. Patterson Will Change the Way You See Gardens Forever

Nafeesah Allen, House Beautiful, March 8, 2023

"Would you cut a painting in half?"

This is how Ebony G. Patterson responds when people ask if her artwork can be displayed without her signature wallpapers. Maximalist floral patterns are often the backdrop of the Jamaica-born artist’s displays, but they aren’t there for decoration. Patterson views the garden as a multilayered metaphor for the human ecosystem in today’s postcolonial world: Vines enshrine her portraiture and sculptural depictions of Black people. “My work examines ideas around visibility and invisibility,” the artist explains.


In her gardens, Patterson toys with vulgarity. People sometimes appear headless, limbless, or punctured. (The detail above, with a fly on the face of a young girl, is from her 2021 work ...the hawk looks she embraces the haunt...and flies come for the nourishing...) The artist's use of monarch butterflies isn’t about beauty at all. She finds it odd that “the butterfly is the only insect we’re not creeped out by,” when compared to other bugs like roaches that clean gardens and flies that are pollinators. After all, monarch butterflies evolved to survive eating poisonous milkweed plants. “When we face difficulties, we survive,” Patterson says. “We always do. Nature tells us that.” Growth is not always pretty but without it, we wither.


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