Ebony G. Patterson Just Set Loose a Swarm of Vultures

[Many thanks to Veerle Poupeye (Critical.Caribbean.Art) for bringing this item to our attention.] The full title of this article is “Ebony G. Patterson Just Set Loose a Swarm of Vultures in the New York Botanical Garden.” Melissa Smith (CULTURED) reviews work by Ebony G. Patterson: “The Chicago and Kingston, Jamaica-based artist gives CULTURED a peek inside the process of assembling her sprawling exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden.”

Anthony Fuentes is pointing out something near the water, maybe the pair of glass-sculpted legs poking out from underneath the enormous wall of green and purple foliage. “I’ve never seen anything like this in the 25 years I’ve worked here,” says the security officer, after taking another look at the installation.

There have been many other art shows at the New York Botanical Garden—including an exhibition in 2021 with works by Yayoi Kusama installed across the buildings and lawns—but nothing quite like this one. The tableau is part of a larger plant and flower-filled installation that Ebony G. Patterson created for the conservatory at the Botanical Garden. Her exhibition, “…things come to thrive…in the shedding…in the molting…,” continues in the garden library with a collection of recent pieces ranging from works on paper to a large, freestanding fabric sculpture inside the rotunda.

The exhibition was conceived during her year-long residency, through which she worked with “the horticulturists and scientists and the exhibitions team to bring something new to life,” explains Joanna L. Groarke, vice president for exhibitions and programming. Patterson is the first artist-in-residence the NYBG has ever had—and as such, started visiting the gardens and having discussions with Groarke and her team about the show as early as 2019, shortly after Groarke introduced the idea of a residency after seeing Patterson’s 2018 show at the Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Beneath the green and purple plant wall display Fuentes was so taken by are metallic black vultures floating on lily pads in a pool of red water. “It’s blood. It’s definitely blood,” says Patterson, pondering what the pool is meant to represent. The scene is the culmination of a site-specific installation that begins outside the conservatory, with hundreds of black vultures taking over the lawn. Continuing inside the seasonal exhibition galleries, a large white peacock stands on a platform, peering back at many more. Surrounding them is an arrangement of bright red, orange, yellow, and white florals with a trail of dark burgundy plants piercing through the middle.

For the full installation, Patterson thought about “two recent works that were related to a peacock’s tail;” she uses the tail as a metaphor for the beauty at the surface of our landscape. But, she wonders, “What does that embellishment conceal?” By lifting it up and peering underneath, does one find “where all of the truth is hidden?”

Anyone familiar with Patterson’s work may see similarities to that 2018 exhibition at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, “…while the dew is still on the roses…,” where she designed an indoor moonlit garden with ominous elements lurking throughout, like a cluster of dark-colored shoes hanging from the ceiling. Or even to the garden-like environment she made in 2015 for the Museum of Arts and Design, using “steel plants that were all informed by plants that had poisonous properties,” she explains. The artist pulled from her knowledge of these varieties, as well as others with healing properties that she’s incorporated in her work, when choosing the species she wanted to include in the Botanical Garden show. [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.culturedmag.com/article/2023/05/26/ebony-g-patterson-new-york-botanical-garden

[Photos above: Ebony G. Patterson, “…things come to thrive…in the shedding…in the molting…” (exhibition view), 2023. Image courtesy of the artist and the New York Botanical Garden.]

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