Elm Staff Writer
The new artist in residence at the gallery of the Vince and Leslie Prince Raimond Arts Building draws inspiration from the history of Kent County.
According to his website, Patterson “highlights the role the distant, and not-so-distant, past have in the cultivation of our current political and social conditions.”
He and his partner, a communications professor at Washington College, moved to Chestertown for her teaching position. They got contact with John Schweitzer, director of the KCAC.
“I was really pleasantly surprised by the quality and intensity of the work,” Schweitzer said, after seeing a few of Patterson’s pieces.
Patterson focuses on two prominent individuals in the African-American community in relation to our area: Henry Highland Garnet — whom the local elementary school is named after — and Charles Sumner, an abolitionist whom Sumner Hall on Queens Street is named after.
“[Patterson] is an artist who is socially aware. He is using his art as a tool towards social engagement … [he] is personable and so easy-going. He really just wants to respect conversation and further that conversation,” Schratwieser said.
Patterson covers a wide variety of subject matter, especially toward the African-American experience and how it applies to today.
“His wide span of information fits right in. The mission of the arts council is three-fold. We look to invest, infuse, inspire,” Schratwieser said. “We look to use this building and our position on this concept of socially engaged artists.”
In the past, the KCAC has included gallery shows from veterans or those currently serving, producing art of mixed feelings within the war zone, commentary on the opioid epidemic, and mental health towards addiction.
Patterson’s gallery was also the only visual art to be presented this year, as the building of the KCAC will be under renovations. Their other projects are staged productions of the African-American experience which will be taking place outside the central building.
“I think this [story] needs to be told anywhere. Chestertown is not unique. Chestertown is a town that in its charter founding over 300 years ago was developed as a port town …for the transportation of slaves,” Schratwieser said.
One of the pieces is the framed work of two Abraham Lincoln portraits based off one photograph. From a distance both appear to be the same, but looking into more detail, there are subtle differences that make one man look as though he has two sides. According to Schratwieser, Patterson recognizes perceptions of him as a president and human being by analysing historical documents, transcriptions of anti-slavery remarks, and blatantly racist statements suggesting the inferiority of African-Americans.
“It’s time to start telling these stories … we are not looking to make anyone upset or angry. We are only looking to make conversation,” Schratwieser said.