Ebony G. Patterson’s Tribute to Cecil Cooper

Cecil Cooper - The Prayer (2016)

Cecil Cooper – The Prayer (2016)

Ebony G. Patterson spoke on behalf of Cecil Cooper‘s past students today at Cecil’s funeral. She has allowed us to publish her powerful tribute.

In moments like these we always think about the absence and somehow our words in these ceremonies are an attempt at filling up something we think is missing. It is difficult to see towers in our life fall. Mr Cooper was a mountain of a man, his presence filled the room’s corner. He was a passionate man who lived his life with incredible meaning. He gave so much of him self to his practice as an artist and gave even more of himself to his family, students, his community and country. He was an generous teacher who gave his students so much and he truly loved us. He was tough on us!  He challenged us constantly, always demanding more of us, more than we thought we were capable of.  And that’s the job of a teacher.  It is to see you beyond your potential. And in the moments of frustration he would say “you ever think about trying animal husbandry”?  Or slap his face.

He never minced his words but the good teachers rarely do. He knew we didn’t know what we were truly capable of and it was his responsibility to help us guide us beyond our imagination and help us to bloom. He saw us not as who we were but who we could be.  He would always say that he knew many of us would not go onto be artists, but regardless of this his responsibility was to discipline us, to send out in to the world as critically thinking,  problem-solving, challenging, engaging, thoughtful, meaningful individuals . He planted seeds in all of us, and we have in one way or another gone on and shared these seeds with others.  Those people we shared with have also planted these seeds in others. He did this beyond his 30 plus years of teaching and that means there are a lot of blooming trees.

Cecil Cooper - Head (2016)

Cecil Cooper – Abstract Face (Pale) Study (2016)

I am grateful that I had Mr Cooper as a mentor and, like our parents, we never imagine these anchors in our lives exiting. I couldn’t imagine myself without him in my own narrative. I hear him everyday I enter the studio, and when I speak to my own students.  I am grateful for the quiet moments we shared listening to Mutty Perkins in studio and talking about the political and social concerns of our country. But I think the most valuable lesson I learned from Mr Cooper as a student was the evidence his own of work, of his own rigour, of his own practice, of his commitment. This was clear every morning when he came to school with his toes drenched in paint.

So we thank you Mr Cooper for SEEING US, thank you for demanding more  of us, thank you seeing beyond our potential, thank you your love , and thank you for loving us even harder during those times of frustration, thank you for holding us accountable, thank you for the late night drive-bys at the studio to make sure we were working through the night, thanks you for advice about finances and family, thanks for encouraging others to buy our work to help support our ambitions, thank you for your vulnerability , thank you for teaching us about the value of hard work  and the fulfillment and gratification that come form this , thank you for  teaching us about the importance  of  helping to build our own communities, thank you for our discipline , thank you for your generosity,  thank you  for seeing us  and, most of all, thank you for allowing US to see you. Thank you for being present.

We are for ever your students and graduates of the Cecil Cooper School of Painting. Paint, sing, and live in Paradise. We love you.

The 2014 Aaron Matalon and Dawn Scott Memorial Awards Are Announced

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The National Gallery of Jamaica extends heartiest congratulations to Ebony G. Patterson, the winner of the 2014 Aaron Matalon Award, and Camille Chedda and Kimani Beckford, the co-winners of the inaugural Dawn Scott Memorial Award. Both awards are attached to the Jamaica Biennial 2014 exhibition, which opened with a week of events from December 7 to 14 and continues until March 15, 2015 at the National Gallery of Jamaica and Devon House in Kingston and at National Gallery West in Montego Bay. The awards were announced at the Biennial’s main opening reception at the National Gallery on Sunday, December 14.

The Aaron Matalon Award is granted to the artist who, in the opinion of the combined Exhibitions and Acquisitions committees of the National Gallery made the most outstanding contribution to the Biennial. The award is named after the National Gallery’s late Chairman and benefactor, the Hon. Aaron Matalon, OJ. Awardees receive a unique medal, hand-crafted by the noted jeweller Carol Campbell, and a monetary award. Previous awardees include Phillip Thomas, Norma Rodney Harrack, Renee Cox, Omari Ra and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan.

The 2014 Aaron Matalon Awardee Ebony G. Patterson is a graduate of the Edna Manley College (BFA) and the Sam Fox College of Design and Visual Art at Washington University in St Louis (MFA). She is presently an Associate Professor in the Fine Arts department of the University of Kentucky. Patterson is one of the most outstanding and internationally acclaimed artists to emerge in Jamaica in the last decade and she has received several awards, including the 2011 Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies and the 2012 Bronze Musgrave Medal. Ebony G. Patterson’s is a uniquely Caribbean aesthetic that melds elements of “high” and “low” art and draws from carnival costuming, Haitian sequined flags, and above all the “bling” of Jamaican Dancehall fashion. Her recent work explores the politics of visibility and invisibility, with regards to the cultural and social implications of violence and death in Jamaican society. Her Biennial projects are exhibited at Devon House and consist of two floor-based tapestry installations from the Dead Treez series, titled Lillies, Carnations and Rozebuds and Trunk Stump and Dominoes, that are embellished with needlework, crochet, glitter, and various objects, including clothing, shoes and children’s toys.

The new Dawn Scott Memorial Award was initiated by the internationally renowned art critic Edward M. Gomez in honour of his late friend, the Jamaican artist Allison Dawn Scott. Dawn Scott is best known for her ground-breaking and highly influential mixed media installation A Cultural Object (1985, Collection: National Gallery) but she also produced figurative batik paintings that depict Jamaican life and people with a unique blend of poetry and realism. She also worked as an interior designer who produced innovative, culturally grounded shop designs and architectural detailing. The awardee is personally selected by Mr Gomez and is a granted to an emerging artist in the Biennial who represents the artistically innovative, socially committed spirit of Dawn Scott. The Dawn Scott Memorial Award also involves a monetary grant. Given the very competitive nature of 2014 Biennial, it comes as no surprise that the Dawn Scott Memorial Award was tied between two artists, Kimani Beckford and Camille Chedda, and Edward Gomez consequently decided to split the award between the two. Continue reading

Kei Miller: Languages beyond Meaning

Laura Facey - Radiant Red, stained wood, National Biennial 2012

Kei Miller

As the National Biennial 2012 draws to a close, we are pleased to provide you with yet another perspective, contributed by Kei Miller, Jamaican poet, novelist and essayist.

It has not been my habit to write about art – to transcribe the awe I sometimes feel standing in front of a piece, or to jot down the fleeting thoughts that might cross my mind while viewing a work. Part of this is self-doubt, of course. I have never studied the visual arts, and I suspect it has a language which I don’t know how to speak.

And then again, there is another feeling I have that the best art actually speaks its own language – something beyond words – and that this business of translating paint or ceramic or film into syllables and punctuation marks, a semiotic medium which it resisted in the first place, is always a kind of reduction. Perhaps I have taken Susan Sontag’s warning to heart – that to talk about art is too often an act of trying to interpret it – to give it a meaning.

Of course at this year’s biennial, much of the work is full of rigorous intellectual content, but nothing that I would call ‘meaning’. This word ‘meaning’ suggests a neat and sometimes too-tidy conclusion, while I suspect our best Jamaican artists are more interested and drawn to the many and messy layers of exploration that precede such flat finalities.

Ebony G. Patterson - The Observation (Bush Cockerel) — A fictitious History, video installation (detail), National Biennial 2012

Ebony G. Patterson – The Observation (Bush Cockerel) — A fictitious History, video installation (detail), National Biennial 2012

I am grateful that Ebony G. Patterson has not yet concluded her fascinating exploration of not-quite-male/not-quite-female bodies. And the work does not seem anxious for conclusion. The bodies she represents seem to move both robotically and gracefully across a much wider spectrum of gender than we tend to imagine let alone acknowledge. What might start out as masculine in Ebony’s work can easily end up feminine; what might start out effeminate can end up butch. But more interesting than these binaries are the many other points along the spectrum; Ebony’s bodies pause at and perform many other genders – genders that have not yet been named by language. ‘Masculinity’ for instance, seems to be a plural thing in Ebony’s work and so embraces the effeminate man, not as someone whose behaviour is antithetical to manliness, but rather as a possible and authentic version of it. The dainty flowers that hang in her video installation this year end up not only contrasting but also perfectly complimenting the soft beauty of her men.

When I step out from the tropical, slightly magical cave she has created, back into the bright lights of the gallery – I am not conscious of anything so simple or smug as a conclusions, only of a fascinating journey. Continue reading

National Biennial 2012 – Musgrave Tributes: Ebony G. Patterson (Bronze, 2012)


Ebony G. Patterson was awarded the Institute of Jamaica’s Bronze Musgrave medal in 2012 and, as has become customary, is honoured with a small tribute exhibition in the 2012 National Biennial. The following is the citation that was read as the Musgrave Award Ceremony at the Institute on October 10, 2012:

The Institute of Jamaica recognizes Miss Ebony G. Patterson for merit in the field of Art.

Ebony G. Patterson is one of the most compelling emerging talents in Jamaican art. After graduating from the Edna Manley College in 2004, she obtained her Masters in Fine Arts at the Washington University in St. Louis in 2006.

Ebony G. Patterson - Untitled III (Khani and Krew, From the Disciplez Series, 2009), mixed media on paper, Collection: Herman van Asbroeck

Ebony G. Patterson – Untitled III (Khani and Krew, From the Disciplez Series, 2009), mixed media on paper, Collection: Herman van Asbroeck

A regular exhibitor a the National Gallery since 2006, she had her greatest impact to date in the Young Talent V exhibition, with photographically derived, embellished tapestries and the decorated body of a car mounted on a plinth as a “sculpture.” Hers is a uniquely Caribbean aesthetic that melds elements of “high” and “low” art and draws from carnival costuming, Haitian sequined flags, and above all the “bling” of Jamaican Dancehall fashion. Always concerned with issues of gender, sexuality and the body, Patterson’s current work explores changing notions of masculinity in Jamaican society.

Continue reading