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...where we found them...—Dead Treez, 2014

Ebony G. Patterson

Look closely at this intricate tapestry from MAD’s permanent collection that conceals disturbing realities within its beautifully embellished surface. Choose a social issue that is important to you and explore how art can communicate your concerns in this object lesson for learners grades 5 and up.

LOOK 

Take a close look at this entrancing mixed-media tapestry by Jamaican-born artist Ebony G. Patterson.

  • Make a list of objects and details that you see in the tapestry. 
  • Look at your list and draw lines to connect any words and ideas that may be linked.

The artist creates a complicated viewing experience by weaving layers of elaborate beading, sequins, embroidery, and trinkets together.

  • What do you associate the tapestry’s embellishments with?
  • What do you notice about the body parts found within this tapestry?

EXPLORE

Patterson draws inspiration from memories of her childhood in Kingston, Jamaica where she grew up listening to dancehall music and frequenting Passa Passa, the weekly street dance party where many dance and fashion trends were born. According to the artist, the vibrant, colorful styling in Jamaica’s dancehall culture, such as “the bling, the hyper-feminine outfits” are “an effort to be seen, because in Jamaica’s poor working-class communities, people don’t feel seen or valued.”

Listen to the artist discuss how dress and embellishment are utilized by marginalized communities to gain visibility.

  • What do you see in the work that someone might wear?
  • What types of clothing might you wear when you want to express yourself?

DISCUSS 

In addition to celebrating the aesthetic of working-class dancehall culture, ...where we found them…—Dead Treez communicates another issue that is important to the artist: the underreported and unacknowledged violence experienced by poor communities in Jamaica. The shapes of the bodies in the tapestry directly reference photographs of anonymous murder victims circulated on social media. After weaving the outlines of the figures, the artist added beading, sequins, crocheted flowers, lace, and other decorative elements that partially obscure the outlines of the victims. According to Patterson, “There is a challenge being made about seeing and looking...the looking is what I’m asking you to do. The looking requires thought, it requires engagement, it requires awareness, and it requires presence.”

  • How does Patterson’s choice of materials affect our perceptions of victims of violence? How do you interpret her statement?
  • What do you think is being literally and metaphorically revealed in the tapestry? What is concealed?
  • Reflect on the list of details that you wrote down in the beginning. How do these items connect to the topics Patterson addresses in her work?

MAKE

 In ...where we found them…—Dead Treez, Patterson intentionally draws viewers in with an alluring visual experience in order to raise awareness about social issues important to her community. Create a poster about a topic that is important to you, such as gender equality, voting rights, or access to education, to name a few examples.

Consider:

  • What words would you use to communicate your message?
  • What visual elements related to the topic would you use to attract your viewers? Add illustrations and embellishments to your poster. Feel free to draw, paint, and/or cut and paste images, shapes and text.

Ebony G. Patterson (Jamaica, b. 1981)
... where we found them...--Dead Treez, 2014
Cotton, plastic, lace, glitter, mixed media
96 × 72 in. (243.8 × 182.9 cm)

Museum of Arts and Design, New York; purchase with funds provided by the Collections Committee, 2017

This object lesson was written by MAD artist educator Jocelyn Yang.

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