Artist calls out Jamaica's 'girly men'

Published: Sunday | May 3, 2009

Guest speaker Dr Donna Hope-Marquis addresses the audience at the opening ceremony of Ebony G. Patterson's solo exhibition at EMC's College Art Gallery, Cag(e).

The CAG(e), the Edna Manley College Art Gallery, recently presented 'Ganstas, Disciplez plus the Doiley Boyz', an exhibition of mixed media works by Ebony G. Patterson. The opening function was held on Tuesday, March 31, with guest speaker, Donna Hope Marquis, PhD, lecturer in reggae studies, Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of the West Indies. The exhibition closed on Friday, April 24.

Ebony is a 2004 graduate in painting of the Edna Manley College, who earned an MFA in printmaking and drawing from the Sam Fox College of Art and Design, Washington University, St Louis, in 2006. She is currently assistant professor of painting and drawing at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Her major exhibitions thus far include Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006 and Curator's Eye III: Ceremony in Space, Time and Sound at the National Gallery of Jamaica in 2008.

Gangstas, Disciplez plus the Doiley Boyz represents the most recent direction in Ebony G. Patterson's work and explores perceptions of masculinity in Jamaican dancehall culture. The set of works, which are currently mounted as a site-specific installation in the CAG(e), consists of portrait-like images of Jamaican males, which are glamorised with glitter, paper doilies and elaborately patterned wallpapers and fabrics and related to contemporary Jamaican realities with ironic components such as gilded painted toy soldiers and brightly coloured toy guns. Patterson thus probes the contradictory interplay between the hard-core masculine posturing of the 'gangsta' and the feminised personal aesthetic which is the norm among many males in the dancehall culture and exemplified by such practices as skin-bleaching, eyebrow shaping and the wearing of flamboyant 'bling' jewellery.

Patterson's work is inspired by life experiences and she believes it is her responsibility to illuminate pressing social issues and facilitate discourse about them. "The artist has a major role ... we have a responsibility to document, think, educate ... impart knowledge, be provocative and force people to think. In essence, we are educators, thinkers, and documenters of life."

A portrait of a 'Gangster' from the collection. - Contributed photos

A portrayal of a 'Disciple' from Ebony G. Patterson's collection.

Another provocative piece from Patterson's collection.