The SCAD Museum of Art presents "If We Must Die…," a solo exhibition by Ebony G. Patterson. The installation showcases two unique sculptural works by the Jamaican-born artist — the "of 72 project" and selections from "Invisible Presence: Bling Memories" — installed together for the first time. Patterson is acclaimed for her ability to ascribe meaning to adornment. She uses references from dancehall, pop and hip-hop cultures, as well as textiles and costumes, to draw attention to issues of class, race and gender.
"Invisible Presence: Bling Memories," originally created for a 2014 performance held in Kingston, Jamaica, during the Carnival mass, is a series of brightly embellished coffin-shaped sculptures that recall the island’s “bling funeral” tradition. More broadly, they address notions of invisibility around disenfranchised communities. More than 30 individualized sculptures — made with doilies, fabric appliques, artificial flowers, fringe, glitter, lace, rhinestones, ribbon and tassels — are placed within the length of the gallery, offering viewers an immersive, vibrant yet contemplative experience.
Across from the sculptures hangs Patterson’s "of 72 project," a series of digitally printed bandanas hung in rows on clothesline. The artwork’s intricately decorated portraits serve as a collective memorial, specifically referencing a day of military violence in Jamaica in 2010 and acting as poignant meditations on individuality and presence. Likewise, the title of the exhibition is taken from the Jamaican poet Claude McKay’s 1919 poem, which reads: "If we must die, O let us nobly die, / So that our precious blood may not be shed / In vain." The tone of this historic poem translates to Patterson’s commemorative work celebrating the importance of human dignity and the enduring human spirit.
Exhibition overview from museum website