High Museum announces Driskell Prize winner: Ebony G. Patterson

Credit: High Museum

Credit: High Museum

Multimedia artist with roots in Jamaica and Chicago wins $50k prize.

Multi-media artist Ebony G. Patterson is the winner of the David C. Driskell Prize, the High Museum of Art announced Monday.

The $50,000 prize goes to early or mid-career artists and scholars who have made a significant contribution to African American art or art history.

Patterson creates installations and large, colorful tapestries out of fabric, glitter, sequins, toys, beads, faux flowers, jewelry, and other items. The colorful, celebratory surface of her work can, on closer inspection, reveal a darker message.

Her art has been featured in dozens of solo and group exhibitions during the past 10 years, including last year’s show at the High, “What Is Left Unspoken, Love,” a 30-year survey of contemporary artists’ views of love. She was represented in that show by a piece the High acquired in 2018, “. . . they stood in a time of unknowing . . . for those who bear/bare witness.”

Contacted at her home in Chicago, Patterson said her first response when she was told she had won was “Me?”

She said she felt privileged to join the other Driskell artists and scholars, “some of whom informed the way I thought about things as a younger artist,” including 2009 winner, scholar Krista A. Thompson.

“To be in the ranks of these people that I have such admiration for, I am deeply honored and very humbled,” she said.

Credit: High Museum of Art

Credit: High Museum of Art

Patterson, 41, studied painting in Kingston, Jamaica, and printmaking and drawing at Washington University in St. Louis. She divides her time between Kingston and Chicago.

“Patterson’s striking work commemorates the lives and struggles of marginalized people throughout the world,” said the High’s director Rand Suffolk, in a statement. “In doing so, she asks viewers to consider tough questions regarding social and racial inequality globally,”

Named for the influential African American artist, scholar and Eatonton native David C. Driskell, the prize goes to “honor and celebrate contributions to the field of African American art and art history,” according to the High Museum.

The prize was established by the High in 2005. The museum’s relationship with Driskell began in 2000, when it staged two Driskell exhibitions: “To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities” and “Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection.”

In 2021 the High organized the survey exhibition, “David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History.”

Past winners of the Driskell Prize have included Adrienne L. Childs (2022), adjunct curator of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and Amy Sherald (2018), whose work has included a commission to paint former first lady Michelle Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

The prize is awarded, in alternating years, to scholars and to artists.