Ebony G. Patterson’s “Garden of healing–and poison” opens today at CAM

Chris King (The St. Louis American) writes that “Garden of healing–and poison,” Ebony G. Patterson’s mixed-media show opens today, September 11, 2020, at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

Ebony G. Patterson was speaking by phone from her mother’s home in Kingston, Jamaica, discussing why it is so difficult to experience her complex, three-dimensional, mixed-media art work by looking at photographs of it, when she was interrupted, she said, by the sound of “a man cutting the garden.”

Since her show opening at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis is themed and titled after a garden, perhaps there was a story there?

Not really. The man outside the window was cutting the common section of an apartment complex grounds; in St. Louis, we would have said he was “cutting the grass.” But, Patterson said, her mother, Thelma Ferguson, is “an avid gardener” and maintains a plot on the apartment grounds. The day before, her mother had taken Patterson to her garden plot to showcase her sweet peppers, pomegranates, scotch bonnet peppers, and orchids.

“I have always known her as someone interested in growing things,” Patterson said. As for the artist herself, as a girl growing up in Jamaica, not so much. “As a kid, I was absolutely not interested,” Patterson said. “I was always tasked with the responsibility of watering her plants after a day in school.” A garden was a chore.

Years later, as a young adult, she said, she would “hop in a car and drive into the bush, into the Blue Mountains, for a couple of days just to be in the wild, untamed section of the island. That felt really good to me. I imagined living in a landscape like that at some point.” In the past, her mother’s home garden was a chore. The untamed bush felt like a future home.

Last spring, Patterson planted a garden that was something of a hybrid between her mother’s planned, nurtured plot and the untamed wild of the Blue Mountains. While an artist in residence at The Momentary, a satellite of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in northwest Arkansas, she planted some plants with nourishing properties and some plants that are poisonous, and then she did nothing to keep any of them alive. “They were left to the elements,” she said, with nothing but rain, sun and natural pollinators to sustain them. The results? “The plants with poisonous properties died,” she said. “Only the healing plants thrived.”

A healing message is needed badly right now, in particular here in St. Louis, where CAM will open her exhibition on Friday, September 11. However, there is still a measure of poison in the beautiful gardens she creates – out of inorganic materials, that is. The girl who resented the chore of watering her mother’s garden grew into the artist who planted, but did not water, healing and poisonous plants as art. Now she cuts and shreds paper and other materials to fashion objects that look, at least at a distance or in a photograph of the work, like a garden in bloom.

“I understand that we are visual creatures, like bees attracted to the color of the flower,” Patterson said. “I use beauty as a tool to seduce the viewer to take a closer look at something different.” [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.stlamerican.com/entertainment/living_it/garden-of-healing-and-poison-ebony-g-patterson-s-mixed-media-show-opens-sept-11/article_2d0ee3c4-f152-11ea-a79f-2b6dfa281609.html

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