David has left you, Rachel has left you, and you are left with me, Aubree Penney, Haverford sophomore, soon to be Religion and English double major, and art enthusiast, here to keep you updated about the People’s Biennial!
Portland native Michael Patterson-Carver marries political activism with his art. Harrell Fletcher, one of the curators of the People’s Biennial, discovered Patterson-Carver selling his artwork outside of a Trader Joe’s in Portland.
It’s a Cinderella story of sorts, with Patterson-Carver going from living in a tent to having his artwork shown in New York and London galleries. For more on Patterson-Carver’s story, check out “An artist, discovered” by Su-jin Yim from the August 16, 2007 issue of the Oregonian.
As the call went out for submissions to the People’s Biennial, Patterson-Carver’s work was featured as being representative of the kind of work co-curators Harrell Fletcher and Jens Hoffman might select for the People’s Biennial. The piece used was his Waiting for Obama.
Featuring people of different races and genders, Patterson-Carver emphasizes the shared experience of awaiting Obama through the similarity of each person’s stance and their dress, which only varies slightly between pants, skirts, and shirts with or without zippers. It has a decidedly global perspective rather than patriotic perspective, suggesting a pressing universal need for Obama’s presidency as “the world is waiting.” Patterson-Carver’s figures identify a distinctive “other” which must be prosecuted, namely the “Bushies” and the “fascists.”
His work is also included in Sex Drive, the current show here at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery. Curated by Stuart Horodner, Sex Drive features Patterson-Carver’s “Same Sex Marriage 2” on the front wall, making it a part of viewer’s initial and concluding experiences of sex as they go through the show.
One of the few pieces of the show that directly confronts the political sphere’s relation to sex, Patterson-Carver’s piece aligns the “pursuit of happiness” with marriage, depicting numerous happy people in couples, based on the figures’ body language. Less graphic than many of the images of Sex Drive, Same-Sex Marriage 2 provides an opportunity to consider sex intellectually and politically, rather than evoking a more visceral reaction.
In his work Patterson-Carver continually confronts us with our own textual fascination, that at times even image falls short of the power of words as we find ourselves drawn to the text on the signs. He also calls into question the idea of presence-in both Waiting for Obama and Same-Sex Marriage 2 there seem to be an excess of signs, but no more people beyond the second row of figures. The protest extends beyond the group gathered; it is representative of a larger unseen body which too demands those rights though these people themselves are unseen.
Personally, what I find most fascinating about Patterson-Carver’s work is his insistence that his figures smile. Su-jin Yim quoted Patterson-Carver in the August 16, 2007 issue of the Oregonian saying, “The protesters smile…because they know they will succeed.” It is a joyful protest, a celebration of an impending certain victory, no matter if it might occur in the next year, as with Waiting for Obama, or in years to come, as with Same-Sex Marriage 2.